By Dan Gilles
Bay’s boys tennis regular season in the West Shore Conference was not very successful.
After the Rockets only won two matches this season, they weren’t expected to do very much at last Saturday’s WSC Boys Tennis Tournament, which was held at both Tri-City Park and Magnificat High School.
With head coach Dave Peters unable to coach the team Saturday due to a teaching commitment, the Rockets went out and stunned their WSC foes.
Three individual champions and one other runner-up propelled Bay to the out-of-left-field WSC tournament title with 28 points, edging newcomer Lakewood’s 27.
“Bay Village, for whatever reason, they were primed and ready today,” Rocky River coach Jeff Sinnema said. “They took it to everybody. Dave Peters and Peter Hussey deserve credit for getting them ready, and they did an excellent job – obviously a better job than we did and Lakewood did. You’ve got to give credit where credit’s due.”
Added Lakewood coach Chris Johnson: “An unbelievable performance by Bay today. I mean, my gosh – winning second singles, winning both doubles, the finals at third singles. To have the regular season they did and to come in today with that kind of tournament is a pretty darn good effort. They did a great job today.”
Lakewood, which is 5-0 in the regular season, still has a chance to win the outright conference title. The Rangers will play 5-0 Rocky River, which has won or shared the WSC crown six of the last seven years, on Thursday.
“Our regular season was just unbelievable this year,” Lakewood coach Chris Johnson said. “When our singles have not done so well, our doubles stepped up, and when our doubles were struggling, the singles stepped up. It was a true team effort so far.
“As far as today, to come up just one point shy and not really have played our best tennis, I’m actually pretty happy. I’m not happy that we didn’t win because I obviously want to win, but I’m pleased we were able to perform like we did with an overall team effort. Everybody reached the semifinals, and if you can do that, you put yourself in a pretty good position.”
The Pirates had a disappointing tournament, finishing in a three-way tie with Avon and Vermilion for third place with 22 points.
“(The team championship is) wonderful because we struggled along the way (only winning two WSC matches),” said Bay sophomore Jack Reiss, whose 6-2, 6-4 win over Avon’s Macklin Robbins in the second singles championship clinched the team title. “I thought we had a better team last year and we lost, so to build this team up and play like we did today is fantastic.”
Hussey, who served as the team’s coach Saturday, declined comment afterward, only saying that he was proud of the way his team performed and was happy to be a part of the team championship.
The Rockets swept the doubles titles in Tyler Enders and Zach Messina (first doubles) and Dan Huntley and Carter Cruse (second doubles), while junior Dan Hippler finished second at third singles, losing to Lakewood’s Dan Mezin, 6-3, 6-4, in the finals.
Reiss, who finished third last season at second singles, went 3-0 with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) first-round win over Midview’s Jason Grau, a 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 win over defending third singles champion Garrett Stefani of Rocky River in the semifinals, and the win over defending second singles champion Robbins in the finals.
“I was so close last year, and to finally come through this year is tremendous,” Reiss said. “I had confidence going into the final because I lost to (Stefani) last week in three sets. So to come back that soon and beat him in three sets, especially after dropping the first one, gave me a ton of confidence for the finals.
“I played Macklin twice last year and we split our two matches. In fact, he beat me in the semifinals last year. I didn’t play him this year.”
Messina, who was part of back-to-back WSC first doubles championships with Scott Geuther, became a three-time conference doubles champion when he and fellow senior Enders defeated Rocky River’s Michael Ittu and Ryan McDermott, 6-3, 6-4, in the finals.
“To me, it was a little expected because Scotty and I won when I was a sophomore and a junior,” Messina said. “As a senior, and partnering with Tyler, I believed I could win it again. We were undefeated in the conference this season, so coming in, I was pretty confident that we could take it.”
After a first-round bye, Messina and Enders edged Avon’s Chance Nicklaus and Tyler Badt, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), in the semifinals. Nicklaus and Badt wound up finishing third, defeating Lakewood’s Frank Figueiredo and Alex Northrop, 6-3, 6-1.
“Zach is a really good player, and us together make a really good team because he’s really fast and I’m really good at the net,” Enders said. “But the key was communication. A lot of it was talking it out and talking all the way through the match. So, we were really coordinated and it worked out well.”
Huntley, who took third at second doubles last season with Elliot Snyder, claimed his first WSC crown with fellow senior Cruse, defeating Lakewood’s Matt Carlson and Colin Levis, 7-5, 6-1, in the finals.
After a first-round bye, they defeated defending WSC second doubles runners-up Eddie Adkins and Tim Niehart of Vermilion, 7-5, 6-4, in the semifinals.
“It was a good accomplishment for my partner and I,” Huntley said. “Especially since, in our normal league match, we lost to Lakewood. So to come back and beat them in the tournament, especially in the finals, was great.
“In the conference, my partner and I were undefeated, but when we played Lakewood, I had my partner from last year (Snyder).”
Mezin and the team of Carlson and Levis gave Lakewood two finalists in its first WSC boys tennis tournament. Mezin, a senior, reached the finals with a 2-6, 6-3, 6-3 semifinal win over Vermilion’s Shane Spencer.
“I was either a champion or a runner-up every year (in the Northeast Ohio Conference), so I was hoping to try to do it again this year,” Mezin said. “I’m a two-time champion and a one-time runner-up now.
“Our team struggled a little bit in this tournament, but we managed to pull through. We had a very long week with five matches in five days, so going into this match was excruciatingly tough. We had bigger hopes, but all in all, to cap a long week like this, I think we did all right.”
Seniors Chris Richardson (first singles) and Chris Brinich (second singles) helped make things interesting for the Rangers with third-place finishes in their respective brackets.
Richardson rallied from a 6-1, 6-0 semifinal loss to eventual runner-up Chaz Hansen of Vermilion to defeat Rocky River’s Henry Grierson in a marathon third-place bout, 7-6 (10-8), 4-6, 6-4. Grierson, last year’s WSC runner-up and a defending Division II sectional champion, battled cramping during the third set, which may have been a factor.
Brinich, in one of the last matches of the tournament, rebounded from a marathon 7-5, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4 semifinal loss to Robbins with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Stefani in the third-place bout.
Lakewood coach Chris Johnson was pleased with his team’s performance.
“I thought our singles played real hard and real smart,” he said. “Chris Richardson has been battling an illness all week, and for him to come back and take third place here in a tough first singles bracket was a really good job.
“(Mezin) has been a little inconsistent throughout the year and we didn’t know what to expect out of him, and he came out and played very focused and very well today. That was fantastic. As far as doubles goes, we’ve had better days, but we’ll come back and work on that and move forward.”
Grierson was denied his second-straight first singles finals appearance by Avon freshman phenom Nico Mostardi. Mostardi, who went on to knock off two-time defending champion Hansen in the finals, defeated Grierson, 6-2, 6-1.
Ittu and McDermott’s runner-up finish at first doubles was the highest individual finish for Rocky River.
“I think adding Lakewood to our league adds quite a bit of credibility to our brand of tennis,” Sinnema said. “They’ve proved that this year during the regular season, and they proved that (Saturday) in the tournament. I’m just sad that they’re leaving after next year and going to the Southwestern Conference.
“Chris is a quality coach and their program is a quality program. It helps establish the validity of our conference in tennis. We’re looking forward to Thursday and looking forward to what next year will bring.”
West Shore Conference Boys Tennis Tournament
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Bay 28, 2. Lakewood 27, 3. (tie) Rocky River, Vermilion, Avon 22, 6. Midview 12, 7. North Ridgeville 5.
FIRST SINGLES – Championship: Nico Mostardi (Avon) def. Chaz Hansen (Vermilion), 6-4, 6-0; Third: Chris Richardson (Lakewood) def. Henry Grierson (Rocky River), 7-6 (9-8), 4-6, 6-4; Fifth: Kevin Grau (Midview) def. Brian Priore (North Ridgeville), 8-0; Seventh: Brandon Myers (Bay) won by default; Semifinals: Mostardi def. Grierson, 6-2, 6-1; Hansen def. Richardson, 6-1, 6-0.
SECOND SINGLES – Championship: Jack Reiss (Bay) def. Macklin Robbins (Avon), 6-2, 6-4; Third: Chris Brinich (Lakewood) def. Garrett Stefani (Rocky River), 6-2, 6-0; Fifth: Connor Sexton (Vermilion) def. Jason Grau (Midview), 8-3; Semifinals: Reiss def. Stefani, 3-6, 6-4, 6-3; Robbins def. Brinich, 7-5, 6-7 (2-7), 6-4.
THIRD SINGLES – Championship: Dan Mezin (Lakewood) def. Dan Hippler (Bay), 6-3, 6-4; Third: Shane Spencer (Vermilion) def. Bradley Pease (Rocky River), 6-0, 6-4; Fifth: Chris Andre de la Porte (Midview) def. Cory Gable (North Ridgeville), 8-0; Seventh: Oliver Berger (Avon) won by default; Semifinals: Hippler def. Pease, 6-3, 6-1; Mezin def. Spencer, 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
FIRST DOUBLES – Championship: Tyler Enders-Zach Messina (Bay) def. Michael Ittu-Ryan McDermott (Rocky River), 6-3, 6-4; Third: Chance Nicklaus-Tyler Badt (Avon) def. Frank Figueiredo-Alex Northrop (Lakewood), 6-3, 6-1; Fifth: Kevin Cole-Colin Pawlowski (Vermilion) def. Brad Schmidt-Tom Wynne (Midview), 8-5; Seventh: Brendan Esber-Joe Scott (North Ridgeville) won by default; Semifinals: Enders-Messina def. Nicklaus-Badt, 6-3, 4-6, 7-6 (7-5); Ittu-McDermott def. Figueiredo-Northrop, 6-0, 6-3.
SECOND DOUBLES – Championship: Dan Huntley-Carter Cruse (Bay) def. Matt Carlson-Colin Levis (Lakewood), 7-5, 6-1; Third: Eddie Adkins-Tim Niehart (Vermilion) def. Connor Jors-Christian Knuebel (Rocky River) by default; Fifth: Nevi Baskar-Shaun Alexander (Avon) def. Ryan Caithaml-Ryan Cicone (Midview), 8-2; Semifinals: Carlson-Levis def. Jors-Knuebel by default; Huntley-Cruse def. Adkins-Niehart, 7-5, 6-4.