A number of tennis players went into the Eastern District sectional tennis tournament at Dover Park with high hopes of advancing to the district level of play.
However, only one doubles team emerged with that accomplishment in tow during the May 11 outing.
West Holmes’ No. 1 doubles team of Ethan Meyer and Andrew Rodhe were able to navigate through a solid field and emerge on the other side having claimed a spot at districts.
Meyer, who went to state last year with his brother Tim, and Rodhe both played first and second singles respectively for the Knights most for this season. They opted to combine forces to try their luck at doubles, a move which obviously paid dividends.
The rest of the hopefuls were not as fortunate.
Several individuals and doubles tandems played their way into the district play-in match, only to fall short of their goal of making it to the day two placement round.
Hiland’s Seth Haun won his first two matches in smooth fashion, utilizing his powerful serve to blow past both Perry Eldridge of Cambridge 6-2, 6-0, before destroying Claymont’s C.J. Jenkins 6-2, 6-1 to make his way to a showdown with Dover’s Garret Davis, the No. 3 seed.
“The past couple of weeks I have been having trouble with my serve because my shoulder has been acting up, but today it feels really good,” said Haun. “Having those two big wins off the bat gives me a lot of confidence.”
Unfortunately, Davis is the kind of player who gives the big-hitting Haun trouble.
“Davis is one of those guys who will just keep the ball in play and force Seth to make mistakes,” said Hiland coach Tyler Yoder. “Seth just gets too anxious and frustrated.”
That is exactly what happened, with the seeded Davis rolling in straight sets 6-1, 6-0.
Hiland’s Grant Gingerich, a first-year player, got to taste victory by earning a 6-1, 6-2 win over West Holmes’ Nathan Hartley. Gingerich was then dumped by St. Clairesville’s Daniel Trouten 6-1, 6-2.
“It was a solid effort for Grant, “said Yoder. “I think he is one of those kids who can really improve over the offseason.”
Hiland’s other single player, Johnny Sisson, was dealt a 6-1, 6-0 loss by Austin Douglass of St. Clairesville, while West Holmes’ Jason Abraham received a bye in round one and was defeated in round two 6-1, 6-0 by Dover’s Brent Keading, who later qualified for districts.
The other local singles player was John Hipp, who waged an epic three set marathon that went more than three hours. He would win his match with Brent Waggle of East Liverpool 6-7 (7-1), 6-4, 7-6 (7-1), but drop the next match to Davis 6-0, 6-0.
The West Holmes team of Cameron Mathie and Eric Biltz won their opening match with an up and down 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 win over St. Clairesville’s No. 1 team.
“I think our communication got a lot better after that second set,” said Mathie of the turnaround.
“We weren’t returning a lot of their serves for some reason in that second set, “said Biltz. “”Plus, we got a lot happier. We kind of got angry at each other in that second set, and that didn’t work out, so we finally figured that out and turned things around.”
For a moment it looked like that might happen in the next round, but the Knights duo eventually fell to Claymont’s No. 2 doubles team in a thrilling 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 win that went into a tiebreaker to decide the outcome.
Hiland’s second double team of Joey Miller and Patrick Miller had the unfortunate pleasure of meeting up with the tournament’s top seeds, former state-qualifiers Jim and Sam Magness of Coshocton. The formidable twins did not lose a single set to reach the placement rounds, and dropped the Hiland freshmen duo in two quick sets.
“I thought they stood in there and played hard,” said Yoder of his young team. “Against those guys, all you can do is try to hit as many balls back as possible.”
Hiland’s No. 1 doubles duo of Logan Weaver and Charlie Schlabach had hopes of finding their way to districts. On the heels of a successful regular season, they easily defeated Indian Creek’s No. 1 team 6-1, 6-1, but struggled mightily early on against Coshocton’s No. 2 team. They eventually found their rhythm, but couldn’t come back, losing 6-0, 7-5.
“They just really struggled early on,” said Yoder. “I’m not sure why. Once they got into it they played a lot better, but that is Coshocton’s regular No. 1 doubles team, and they are really good.”
That left Rodhe and Meyer as the lone survivors.
On Tuesday, May 12, they returned to Dover Park for the district seeding placement portion of the tournament. West Holmes was able to work past Coshocton’s No. 2 team of Thomas Guaerke and Mithcell Milliken in a tight 7-6 (7-4), 6-3 win, but would fall in the sectional final to Coshocton’s No. 1 team of senior twins Sam and Jim Magness, who blasted past Rodhe and Meyer by a 6-2, 6-0 count.
The two games West Holmes took off the twins were the only two losses the brothers suffered in the entire sectional tournament.
“I thought overall they played pretty well,” said West Holmes coach Jason Otto of his doubles team. “They were seeded, and I thought they would get out. It was just a matter of where they would be seeded.
“That first win against Coshocton was really big because not only does it get them a buy in the first round of district play, it also keeps them on the opposite side of the bracket from the Magness twins.