Midway through the 2011 boys' tennis schedule, the Sandusky Bay Conference may be looking at a new leader.
St. Mary Central Catholic has the field at arm's reach, holding a 1 1/2 -match lead on second-place Port Clinton. The Panthers won their only boys tennis title in 2002.
"Right now, I feel great about where we are," SMCC coach Doug Linden said. "I think if we continue to play the way we are now, we've got a good chance at winning it."
The Panthers improved to 5-0 in the SBC (9-0 overall) with a 4-1 victory over Oak Harbor on Tuesday to maintain their lead over Port Clinton (4-2 in the SBC), winners of the last six consecutive SBC titles.
"I definitely think St. Mary's stands out as the team to beat," Port Clinton coach Jim Lamb said.
Oak Harbor ended the Redskins' multi-season win streak earlier this year, and St. Mary CC followed with a 4-1 victory over Port Clinton on April 20.
On Tuesday, Oak Harbor (5-5, 3-2 SBC) senior Greg LaFountain scored a tight three-set victory over SMCC state qualifier Andrew Linden, 6-3, 7-6, 8-6.
"I've coached Greg for four years and it was one of his biggest wins, playing a player like Andrew," Greg's father and Oak Harbor coach Rick LaFountain said. "Coming away with a win, that was a great way to go out. He hoped he could just play close with Andrew, so this was a great match for him."
Doug Linden, in his fourth year coaching the Panthers, said he's seen improvement in LaFountain.
"I thought he did a great job sticking with his game plan (Tuesday)," he said. "I've seen two matches with Greg where he seems to have stepped up his play this year."
Andrew turns around for a big match today against fellow state-qualifier Trevor Bowers as SMCC hosts Norwalk in a 2:30 p.m. match today at Baywinds Athletic Club in Perkins Township, or possibly at Perkins High School if the weather allows. Bowers is 8-0 this season and has lost only four total games so far.
St. Mary's Evan Slattery defeated Eli Boldt in second singles, 6-0, 6-4, while Connor Stark won third singles for the Panthers with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Nik Shay.
The Panthers' tandem of Alex Opfer and Collin Ebert took down Brock Goetz and Tony DeCeasare in first doubles, 6-2, 6-1, while Jared Ebert and Tanner Roth defeated Jeremiah Helle and Kirk Tallman in second singles, 6-2, 6-4.
"Everyone is going to continue to play us tough, but if we keep playing like we are, we have a good chance," Doug Linden said.
Oak Harbor is scheduled to host Perkins on Tuesday night if weather allows.