By Dan Gilles
Westlake’s boys tennis team decided to do a little spring cleaning at Saturday’s Southwestern Conference Tournament at Avon Lake High School, and broke out the brooms.
The Demons swept all five individual championships for the maximum point total of 35 points. While one final conference dual remains against Berea-Midpark, they clinched at least a share of their eighth consecutive SWC championship with their tournament performance at Avon Lake High School.
“I do feel great,” Westlake coach Jeffrey Mannies said. “Our team was physically and mentally prepared for a challenge because we expected Avon Lake to be a contender. The darkhorse here was Berea-Midpark, and they came out with a really strong team.
“We’re undefeated and they’re undefeated, so we’ll play next Friday and duke it out. I was real confident that our one, two and three singles players would play like they did, and I was very happy with the way Krish Shah handled himself at third singles.”
Berea-Midpark, with three runners-up, edged the host Shoremen for second place in the tournament by one point, 27-26. Avon Lake had one runner-up and four third-place finishers to cement third place as a team and give the Titans a push for the second spot.
“My team performed awesome today,” Avon Lake coach Adam Slabodnick said. “It was very similar to how we did at the LCAAA Tournament. Our guys performed the best they could and how I thought they could. We got third place at every single singles category and everyone finished at least second or third. To me, that’s super-impressive and I’m very proud of them.”
The Demons had a couple repeat SWC champions. Junior Cal Craven won his third championship, but his first at first singles after he held off a tough challenge from Amherst’s Cory Habecker, 6-2, 6-4.
Craven had dominated Habecker in their only other match this season, winning 6-0, 6-0. This time, the Comet junior rose to the challenge and gave the defending Division I doubles state qualifier all he could handle.
“It was the first match of the year, and I’m sure he hadn’t been playing that much prior to that,” Craven said. “Plus, it was very windy that match and I think that was a factor. I was able to take advantage of that. This time, he hit some nice shots. His shots are a bit inconsistent, but they’re nice shots. If he can get them in, then it helps his game tremendously.
“The wind in the first one kind of played into my advantage. I wasn’t surprised this one was a bit tougher. Fortunately, I was able to hold on.”
Craven, the top seed, defeated Avon Lake’s Austin Rice, 6-3, 6-1, in the semifinals. Rice wound up taking third.
“I won at second doubles as a freshman, second singles as a sophomore and now first singles this year,” Craven said. “At first singles, you know you’re getting the top competition so you have to play your best. You’re going to play the best of the other teams and their most motivated players are coming out to get you.”
Freshman Aris Jhaveri continued his successful debut season by winning the second singles crown. He overcame a tough 7-5, 6-1 victory, in which he trailed 5-1 in the first set, in the semifinals against Avon Lake’s Parker MacDonald to dominate Berea-Midpark’s Aniceto Martinez, 6-1, 6-1.
“I’m really glad I could win and help my team out,” Jhaveri said. “I did not play well in the first set (against MacDonald), and I fortunately came back with six straight games to win that set 7-5.
“I was very angry and throwing racquets, and I actually got a point penalty for it. I think that really snapped me out of it. I think that fired me up and got me back into playing. So, yeah, I guess coming back really did spark the rest of my tournament.”
Shah, the second seed at third singles, also got a first-round bye and went 2-0 to claim the championship. He defeated top-seeded Adam Poschner from Berea-Midpark, 6-3, 6-2, in the finals.
Senior Kent Dinchman and junior Thomas Reusser teamed up to win the first doubles championship, defeating the Titans’ Dillon Nguyen and Ray Klebowski, 6-2, 6-2, in the finals. It was Dinchman’s third SWC title, all at doubles, and Reusser’s second.
“This is our first title together,” Dinchman said. “At the beginning, we kind of had disputes of which side we would take in the court, but we eventually just made our choice and went with it and became pretty solid.”
Added Reusser: “We knew each other before, so it’s not like that stranger aspect. And we played together in drills before, but never competitively. But once we got going, we just clicked.”
Senior Pranay Arora and junior Ameesh Shah finished off the clean sweep when they defeated Avon Lake’s Matt Duskey and James Moore, 6-2, 6-3, in the second doubles final.
“Both of our doubles performed at a very high level,” Mannies said. “I don’t think it’s their highest yet, but they certainly did what they needed to do.
“Our second doubles dropped a match to Avon Lake earlier this year, so for them to take back this victory from the same two Avon Lake players here was huge for them. I was proud of their tenacity.”
Rice, MacDonald, Robert Hoffman (third singles) and the team of Matt Sladek and Oliver Wilhelm (first doubles) all finished third for the Shoremen.
“We played pretty good, but I think we could have played a lot better,” Moore said. “We need to work harder in these types of matches. But it feels great knowing we did really good as a team today.”
“I think (Arora and Shah) were working more as a team than we were,” Duskey added. “I think they just wanted it more, I guess. It gave us a lot of things that we need to work on more. We need to communicate better and work on the little things, and I think that will help us out in the end.”
North Olmsted finished fourth with 16 points, led by the fourth-place finishes of Tyler Roll (third singles) and the team of Ernest Oleksy and Brad Reinhard (first doubles).
Amherst and Olmsted Falls finished tied for last place with 10 points. Habecker’s runner-up finish gave the short-handed Comets, who were missing their third singles player, the bulk of their points. Paul Katz’s fifth-place finish at first singles was the highest placer for the Bulldogs.
Southwestern Conference Tournament results
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Westlake 35, 2. Berea-Midpark 27, 3. Avon Lake 26, 4. North Olmsted 16, 5. Brecksville 15, 6. (tie) Amherst, Olmsted Falls 10.
FIRST SINGLES – Championship: Cal Craven (Westlake) def. Cory Habecker (Amherst), 6-2, 6-4; Third: Austin Rice (Avon Lake) def. Miller Buckholtz (Berea-Midpark), 8-6; Fifth: Paul Katz (Olmsted Falls) def. Billy Boerwinkle (North Olmsted), 8-3; Seventh: Brandon Halupnik (Brecksville) won by default; Semifinals: Craven def. Rice, 6-3, 6-1; Habecker def. Buckholtz, 7-5, 6-1; First Round: Craven won by default; Rice def. Boerwinkle, 6-1, 6-2; Buckholtz def. Katz, 6-1, 6-0; Habecker def. Halupnik, 6-1, 6-2.
SECOND SINGLES – Championship: Aris Jhaveri (Westlake) def. Aniceto Martinez (Berea-Midpark), 6-1, 6-1; Third: Parker MacDonald (Avon Lake) def. Christian Sorige (Brecksville), 8-6; Fifth: Taylor Benjamin (North Olmsted) def. Ryan Bellinger (Olmsted Falls), 8-7; Seventh: George McGuire (Amherst) won by default; Semifinals: Jhaveri def. MacDonald, 7-5, 6-1; Martinez def. Sorige, 6-0, 6-4; First Round: Jhaveri won by default; MacDonald def. Benjamin, 7-5, 6-4; Sorige def. Bellinger, 6-1, 6-0; Martinez def. McGuire, 6-0, 6-0.
THIRD SINGLES – Championship: Krish Shah (Westlake) def. Adam Poschner (Berea-Midpark), 6-3, 6-2; Third: Robert Hoffman (Avon Lake) def. Tyler Roll (North Olmsted), 8-6; Fifth: Garrett Croes (Brecksville) def. Brian Chaya (Olmsted Falls), 8-6; Seventh: N/A; Semifinals: Poschner def. Roll, 6-2, 4-6, 6-3; Shah def. Hoffman, 6-2, 6-2; First Round: Poschner won by default; Roll def. Croes, 6-0, 6-0; Hoffman def. Chaya, 6-0, 6-0; Shah won by default.
FIRST DOUBLES – Championship: Kent Dinchman-Thomas Reusser (Westlake) def. Dillon Nguyen-Ray Klebowski (Berea-Midpark), 6-2, 6-2; Third: Matt Sladek-Oliver Wilhelm (Avon Lake) def. Ernest Oleksy-Brad Reinhard (North Olmsted), 8-1; Fifth: Nadmir Randhawa-Zack Perdion (Brecksville) def. Spencer Machesky-Jordan Kneisel (Amherst), 8-4; Seventh: Tyler Zalac-Zach Buchta (Olmsted Falls) won by default; Semifinals: Dinchman-Reusser def. Olesky-Reinhard, 6-0, 6-2; Nguyen-Klebowski def. Sladek-Wilhelm, 1-6, 7-5, 7-5; First Round: Dinchman-Reusser won by default; Olesky-Reinhard def. Machesky-Kneisel, 6-1, 6-2; Nguyen-Klebowski def. Randhawa-Perdion, 7-5, 6-4; Sladek-Wilhelm def. Zalac-Buchta, 6-2, 6-0.
SECOND DOUBLES – Championship: Pranay Arora-Ameesh Shah (Westlake) def. Matt Duskey-James Moore (Avon Lake), 6-2, 6-3; Third: Austin Luu-Brett Meier (Berea-Midpark) def. Grant Gates-Michael Lee (Brecksville), 8-4; Fifth: Parth Patel-Eddie Digges (North Olmsted) def. Julie Wu-Tyler Kollar (Olmsted Falls), 8-2; Seventh: Robert Montgomery-Tyler Barrett (Amherst) won by default; Semifinals: Duskey-Moore def. Luu-Meier, 6-2, 6-1; Arora-Shah def. Gates-Lee, 6-1, 6-0; First Round: Duskey-Moore won by default; Luu-Meier def. Patel-Digges, 6-2, 6-1; Gates-Lee def. Montgomery-Barrett, 7-5, 6-2; Arora-Shah def. Wu-Kollar, 6-0, 6-0.