Jonathan Steinke credits coach Sean Gilbert for much of his development within the Dublin Scioto boys tennis program.

After playing first doubles a year ago, Steinke was projected to play first singles this spring, but his senior season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

Steinke played for Gilbert in seventh and eighth grade at Davis Middle School, on junior varsity as a sophomore and on varsity last season.

"Coach helped me relax a little bit more on the court and stop worrying so much about things that don't really matter when you're playing tennis," Steinke said. "Things like spectators and what the other team thinks of you and just focusing on the game more."

Steinke was ready for the challenge of playing first singles in the OCC-Cardinal Division, which has been dominated by Jerome. Last season, the Celtics went 7-0 in the OCC-Cardinal to win their fifth consecutive league title.

"It would have been a really neat experience even though I wouldn't necessarily have a great season in that position," Steinke said. "I had a good feeling that I would be highly placed (on the team), but there were some really good people on the team. There were some really good juniors and sophomores and even some really good freshmen this year."

Gilbert believes Steinke had the potential to advance in the postseason.

"He progressed," Gilbert said. "I had the opportunity to coach him in middle school. Last year, he took a big step and played a lot of first doubles for us. This year, he was going to step into first singles. He put so much work in in the offseason through private lessons. When he came to tryouts, he was in his own category.

"He would have had just as good a chance as any first singles player out there heading to (the Division I) district (tournament)."

Steinke also was expected to be a leader for the Irish this spring.

"I put a lot on him in regard to leadership without really asking him," Gilbert said. "I just pushed it on him, and he stepped up to the plate. It wasn't even just his play. It was his leadership skills, taking the guys through warmups, stretches and drills. He was on a different level than everyone else."

Last season, Steinke went 6-7 in doubles and teamed with 2019 graduate Joey Randazzio in the postseason, going 1-1 at sectional.

Steinke, who graduated with a 4.0 GPA, will attend the University of Cincinnati, where he plans to major in engineering and hopes to play tennis at the club level.

"He's an amazing kid," Gilbert said. "He played in the orchestra, his GPA was amazing. He never complained, he worked hard. You could see the skill and potential. He played in a lot of outdoor tournaments. The consistency was there. He added a lot of power to his game and he always had the smarts. He was going to be a tough out for a lot of guys."

fdirenna@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekFrank