Coming off a pair of OCC-Capital Division titles, Dublin Scioto boys tennis coach Sean Gilbert is looking forward to his team taking the next step.
Although they excelled in league play the last two seasons, the Irish are hoping for improvement in the postseason.
Scioto competed in a Division I sectional May 11 at Hilliard Bradley, but failed to qualify a player for second-day action May 14.
Only one player won a postseason match, as junior Arjun Patel went 1-1 in singles.
“At the beginning of the season, the goal was to win the conference again and all the guys wanted to do better at sectional than they had the year before,” Gilbert said. “The guys wanted to go further and play better than they did last year. We didn’t win many matches at sectional, but the guys did play really well and carried themselves even better, so I was happy about that.
“With sectional, it takes a lot of skill, but it takes a little luck as well with the draws you get. I’m not trying to make excuses, but the guys got some tough draws, so we took it as a learning experience. It’s also motivation for them to work even harder in the offseason. ”
Gilbert said keys to that improvement include increased work in the weight room and conditioning in the offseason, and “having a mindset to be able to win three matches to qualify for district.”
Scioto finished 11-4 overall and 7-0 in the OCC-Capital, ahead of second-place Big Walnut (6-1).
“We were focusing this year on playing as a champion, but also acting like a champion,” Gilbert said. “We’re really going to focus on that through the offseason and into next year and hopefully we have a little bit more success at sectional next year as well.”
The Irish gained valuable experience by splitting a pair of matches in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I team tournament, beating St. Charles 3-2 on April 4 before losing 5-0 to Olentangy on April 15.
Scioto loses just one player to graduation in Moksh Desai, who capped a three-year career with the program. The 2020 season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Desai teamed with junior Aakash Shah at first doubles to finish 6-8 overall and 6-1 in league play.
“I enjoyed being a leader,” said Desai, who also went 1-0 at second singles. “The seniors last year led by example, so I just followed in their footsteps and led the team the same way.”
Patel led the team in wins, finishing 10-4 overall and 6-1 in league play at third singles.
Junior Akash Manoj went 9-5 overall and 6-1 in league play at second singles, and junior Sohum Patel went 8-7 overall and 5-2 in league play at first singles.
Junior Will Smialek and sophomore Kunaal Karnani finished 9-6 overall and 6-1 in league play at second doubles.
“Things could happen in the offseason, but we’re looking like we’ll be pretty loaded again next year if guys keep playing,” Gilbert said.
After winning the OCC-Capital last season at 7-0, the Irish had just one player qualify for district in 2021 graduate Luis Ramirez Marquez, who lost his only match.
Before capturing the league title last season, Scioto had not won a conference championship since going 4-0 in the OCC-Cardinal in 2005.
“We were definitely confident and we did what we thought we would,” Desai said. “We’re happy that we were able to walk the talk.”
SCIOT BOYS TENNIS
•Record: 11-4 overall
OCC-Capital standings: Scioto (7-0), Big Walnut (6-1), Worthington Kilbourne (5-2), Delaware (4-3), Westerville North (3-4), Westerville South (2-5), Canal Winchester (1 -6), Franklin Heights (0-7)
• Senior lost: Moksh Desai
• Key returnees: Akash Manoj, Arjun Patel and Sohum Patel