Boys Tennis: Strong junior class ready to lead Dublin Jerome Celtics

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Sophomore Rohan Athavale is playing third singles for Jerome. The Celtics are coming off a 2019 season in which they reached a Division I district final in the OTCA tournament for the first time and finished 17-2.

Lifted by a strong freshman class in 2019, the Dublin Jerome boys tennis team reached a Division I district final in the OTCA tournament for the first time and finished 17-2. 

That class didn’t get to build on that success last spring after the season was canceled, but it forms the backbone of a team that again should field one of the area’s deepest lineups as the Celtics seek a sixth consecutive league title. 

The top returnee is junior Max Fickas, who saw action at first singles as a freshman and is in that spot again. He beat teammate Anish Patel, a 2020 graduate, for the sectional title and had his 2019 season end with a loss in a district quarterfinal. 

Patel went on to reach the state tournament, where he fell in the first round. 

“It’s pretty tough coming off a year where you don’t play to see and to know exactly what you have and what everybody else has,” said coach Ken Berlin, whose team has no seniors. “Coming into practice with the March weather, it takes time to get through the cut process, so that’s why it’s really important to use the first few matches to see. Overall, I think we’re a pretty deep team, and so I’m excited for what this year could bring.” 

Junior Eli Wiblin is at second singles and sophomore Rohan Athavale is at third singles. 

Junior Tanish Pairu, who teamed with 2020 graduate Andrew Dvorkin to reach a district quarterfinal in doubles in 2019, is at first doubles with junior returnee Kevin Liu. 

Junior Viraj Bajoria and sophomore Maxwell Stratford are at second doubles, but juniors Frank Li and Arnav Madani and freshman Cayden Stratford also should see action in doubles. 

“We’ll do some mixing and matching, especially early on in the season and see where our best lineup lands and just kind of go from there,” Berlin said. “We have a lot of good singles guys who are also good doubles guys, so it’s just getting them playing together and playing with different combinations to see what gives us the best look.” 

INSIDE THE CELTICS 

Coach: Ken Berlin, fifth season 

Next match: April 15 at Marysville 

Key athletes: Rohan Athavale, Viraj Bajoria, Max Fickas, Kevin Liu, Tanish Pairu, Maxwell Stratford and Eli Wiblin 

’Rocks return three 

district qualifiers 

Of the five players who competed at the Division I district tournament in 2019 for Coffman, three have returned this spring. 

That group includes seniors Anton Bakunin and Siddharth Rajagopal, who were doubles partners for the 2019 postseason and lost in the first round at district. 

The other is senior Sanjay Janardhan, who teamed with 2019 graduate Cobie Frank and lost in the first round of district in doubles. 

Those three should see the majority of the time at singles for the Shamrocks along with senior William Sun. 

“We’re looking good,” coach Brett Hundertpfund said. “I like the group. Especially after last year, you can’t keep them off the court. They’re so hungry to play, which is cool to see.” 

Juniors Isaac Frank and Bryan Le and sophomores Shinya Akiyama and Fedor Bakunin are others who could see action in singles or doubles. 

“They’re all pretty equal, which is kind of a blessing and a curse,” Hundertpfund said. “It’s just going to be one of those years where we’re going to have a lot of flexibility where we can do things with our lineup that maybe we haven’t done in the past. We have a lot of good guys who are pretty equal in ability level.” 

INSIDE THE SHAMROCKS 

Coach: Brett Hundertpfund, ninth season 

Next match: April 15 vs. Olentangy Orange 

Key athletes: Anton Bakunin, Fedor Bakunin, Isaac Frank, Sanjay Janardhan, Bryan Le, Siddharth Rajagopal and William Sun 

—Jarrod Ulrey 

Sophomore Sohum Patel is playing first singles for Scioto. The Irish opened April 6 with a 5-0 win over visiting Westerville South.

Irish coach eyes  

success in league 

Scioto coach Sean Gilbert believes the Irish will be among the top teams in the new-look OCC-Capital. 

Scioto is competing in the league with Big Walnut, Canal Winchester, Delaware, Franklin Heights, Westerville North, Westerville South and Worthington Kilbourne. 

“With the talent we have anything less than a top-three (finish) would be a disappointment, but that should be an annual goal for us,” Gilbert said. “We’ll see Kilbourne, we’ll see Big Walnut and even Delaware. I’m guessing that will be our main competition.” 

Scioto opened with a 5-0 league victory over visiting South on April 6. Winners were sophomore Sohum Patel at first singles (6-7, 6-1, 1-0), senior Luis Ramirez Marquez at second singles (6-2, 6-0), sophomore Akash Manoj at third singles (6-1, 6-0), seniors Anutam Srinivasan and Visvam Srinivasan at first doubles (6-0, 6-0) and juniors Moksh Desai and Aaryan Patel at second doubles (6-0, 6-1). 

“We’re pretty strong top to bottom through our j.v. players and even into our exhibition players,” Gilbert said. “We have 27 guys right now and we have eight really strong, super close (players), maybe even a ninth that might get a little varsity playing time and that’s very rare for me as a coach. … The guys are pushing each other. I always push them to challenge if they’re not happy where they’re ranked.” 

INSIDE THE IRISH 

Coach: Sean Gilbert, second season 

Next match: April 15 vs. Franklin Heights 

Key athletes: Sohum Patel and Luis Ramirez Marquez 

—Frank DiRenna

sports@thisweeknews.com

@ThisWeekSports