Boys Tennis: New coach loves work ethic of Olentangy Liberty Patriots

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Liberty freshman Krish Badri competes at third singles April 7 at Pickerington North. First-year coach Adrian Tolentino has been impressed with the Patriots' work ethic, saying players have been "battling to secure their spots in the lineup."

Editor’s note: Due to a reporter’s error, an earlier version of this story omitted the names of the last Liberty doubles team to advance to the state tournament.

After having his first season as coach of the Olentangy Liberty boys tennis team delayed a year because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, Adrian Tolentino is overjoyed with where the Patriots stand this spring.

Tolentino couldn’t be more pleased with the work ethic he’s seen from a roster that returns three contributors from 2019 and is strong in participation numbers.

“The squad is everything a coach could ask for,” said Tolentino, who also has been the Hilliard Davidson girls coach the last two seasons. “The guys each work hard in and out of practice and each of them have that bulldog mentality. I’ve seen a fighting spirit in each of the players, and as long as we don’t lose that focus and drive, I think we’ll be just fine.” 

The top returnee is senior first-singles player Vishnu Bodavula, who teamed with 2019 graduate Marcelo Aguilar to become the program’s first doubles team since Alex Solove and Mitchell Lothes in 2009 to reach the state tournament. Aguilar is now playing for Ohio Wesleyan.

The top returnee is senior first-singles player Vishnu Bodavula, who teamed with 2019 graduate Marcelo Aguilar to become the first doubles team in program history to reach the state tournament. Aguilar is now playing for Ohio Wesleyan. 

Sophomore Jay Ramakkagari is at second singles. 

Seniors Arvind Nair and Nandha Srivenkateswaran teamed to reach a doubles quarterfinal at a Division I sectional in 2019 and should be in the lineup along with junior Nolan Russell, sophomore Elijah Polintan and freshman Krish Badri. 

Senior Saketh Chirumamilla, junior Aryaman Dubey and freshmen Marcus Bode and Liam Hand are others looking for playing time. 

“The only two spots that I know of will be Vishnu at first singles and Jay at second singles,” Tolentino said. “Between the other five spots, the entire squad has been battling to secure their spots in the lineup. The consistent effort and competitiveness between the group has been eye-opening, so I’m sure that the lineup between our first match of the season and the last match of the season probably won’t be the same.” 

INSIDE THE PATRIOTS

Coach: Adrian Tolentino, first season 

Next match: April 17 vs. Massillon Jackson 

Key athletes: Krish Badri, Vishnu Bodavula, Arvind Nair, Elijah Polintan, Jay Ramakkagari, Nolan Russell and Nandha Srivenkateswaran 

Routzahn leads strong

nucleus for Braves

If Olentangy is to have a successful season, including a second consecutive league title, ninth-year coach Jeff Luxenburger said his lineup’s depth would be perhaps the top reason.

Senior Sam Routzahn, a 2019 Division I state qualifier in doubles, is playing first singles ahead of the team’s other two returnees, senior Roshan Sriram and junior Trevor Gerald.

Routzahn and junior Omar Khayat, who since has moved to California, finished third as a doubles team at both sectional and district two years ago and went 0-1 at state.

“We have a lot of leadership with Sam and Roshan being seniors. We have a pretty strong nucleus to build around,” Luxenburger said. “Just having a high-caliber player like Sam, he’ll have a ton of tough matches but he’s capable. I think he’s one of the top players in the state, and having a guy like him atop the lineup is such a boost for everybody else. Most times, we can count on him and then it’s up to the other guys to win two courts (to win a match).”

Junior Dakshin Pisini and freshman Sujan Sriram began the season at first doubles. Luxenburger expected flexibility at second doubles from a group consisting of junior Sammy Thotapalli and sophomores Vedant Dave, Mitch MacDowell, Pranav Nandakumar and Kashiv Sriram.

Olentangy went 13-4 overall and 5-0 in the OCC-Buckeye Division in 2019 to win its first league title. The Braves now are in the OCC-Cardinal.

INSIDE THE BRAVES

Coach: Jeff Luxenburger, ninth season

Next match: April 15 at Thomas Worthington

Key athletes: Trevor Gerald, Dakshin Pisini, Sam Routzahn, Roshan Sriram and Sujan Sriram

—Dave Purpura

Coach likes mix

on Bears’ roster

First-year Berlin coach Richard Hunt likes the mix of veterans and newcomers on his squad.

The Bears will have sophomore Josh McKnight at first singles and freshman Logan Van Horne at second singles. After that, Hunt still is searching for the right combination.

“Josh and Logan are in place with the rest of the lineup switching around until we get where we need to be,” said Hunt, whose team was 3-1 after defeating Upper Arlington’s B team 4-1 on April 7. “We have a good mix of skill levels and ages, and we have some young kids who have been stepping up along the way.”

Sophomore Akhil Damarla started the season at third singles, with juniors Jace Boyce and Kathir Maarikarthykeyan at first doubles and juniors Adithya Balachandar and Aaron Dhillon at second doubles.

Senior Brody Edgson also plays second doubles.

“We need to keep working on our doubles play,” said Hunt, who also coaches the Berlin girls team. “We need more practice with that right now. We’re trying to find the right combination, and we need to play more matches for them to get used to their partner.

“This is a fun group, and we have been improving a lot. We have a good mix, and I could play a lot of guys in different areas. We started the season with two sophomores and a freshman on our singles court, so it looks like we have a good future ahead of us.”

INSIDE THE BEARS

Coach: Richard Hunt, first season 

Next match:April 15 vs. Hilliard Darby

Key athletes: Josh McKnight and Logan Van Horne

—Scott Hennen

Pioneers fielding

inexperienced lineup

Eighth-year Orange coach Matt Rutherford is looking for the right lineup combination.

Junior Parth Patel will play first singles, but the remainder of the lineup is unsettled.

“We have a good group of young players that are talented, but they need to get some experience,” Rutherford said. “We have kids that play in tournaments, but it’s a different kind of pressure playing for a high school team and being an ambassador for your school. Some naturally get used to the challenge, but it can take awhile for others.

“Parth Patel is definitely our No. 1, but after that it’s tough. We have so many young guys that it’s trial and error right now."

Seniors Jake Ethridge and Pranav Krishnan, junior Chris Kraynak and sophomores Nick Clifford and Austin Jackson are looking to fill out the lineup. Freshmen Kallan Arledge, Nimai Bhat, Zach Haar and Eric Tang also are in play to start.

“Kallan Arledge and Zach Haar are strong tournament players,” Rutherford said. “Both Nick Clifford and Pranav Krishnan have been playing well.

“Jake Ethridge also runs track but came out for his senior season. I know him from tournaments, but he never came out for the team before this.”

The Pioneers opened April 12 with an OTCA team tournament match against Big Walnut before beginning OCC-Central play against Hilliard Davidson on April 13.

INSIDE THE PIONEERS

Coach: Matt Rutherford, eighth season

Next match: April 15 at Dublin Coffman

Key athletes: Kallan Arledge, Nick Clifford, Zach Haar, Pranav Krishnan and Parth Patel

—Scott Hennen

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