• Dr. Herpy

Bomber aces win back-to-back WRC titles

Published in The Chagrin Valley Times
May 10, 2018
Tony Lange

Kenston tennis graduated 2017 league MVP Parker Banning, while Mayfield picked up a freshman phenom, but that didn’t stop the Bomber aces from defending their Western Reserve Conference banner last Wednesday at their home courts in Bainbridge.

While first-singles action usually captivates the crowd, the Kenston boys were catapulted by WRC titles at third singles and both doubles flights to score 63 points, beating runner-up Mayfield, 60 points, third-place Chardon, 38 points, and the rest of the seven-team field.

The Bombers also went 6-0 in league duals, sweeping Willoughby South, Madison, Eastlake North and Brush, while earning a 3-2 split against Mayfield and a 4-1 victory against Chardon.

“Well, we won it last year, and when we were picking our goals for the kids to go after this year, I said, ‘Why not repeat?’” Kenston 11th-year head coach Dale Israelson said. “We can do it. We’ve got the team to do it. Mayfield got a little stronger with Yukun (Wong) coming in there, so I knew it was a hard challenge, and that way the guys have something to focus on during the season, and they did. They all played well.”

Mayfield freshman Yukon Wong won the league MVP this year, defeating Kenston senior Sammy Cohen, 6-2, 6-2, in the first singles finals match.

“He’s very good,” Cohen said of Wong. “Honestly, he just hit it a lot harder than me. He was just able to keep it in at that pace for longer than I was.”

Before his finals match against Wong, Cohen skunked his opponent from Eastlake North in straight sets to open the tournament, and then he defeated Willoughby South senior Ryan Miozzi, 6-3, 6-3, in semifinals action.

“What he did was he just kept a lot of balls in, so what I had to do was I either had to wait it out with him or end the point quicker,” Cohen said of Miozzi. “So, I ended up going up to the net a lot and ending the points, and that was working well for me.”

A four-year varsity player, Cohen captured a Chagrin Valley Conference title on the second singles court his freshman year, played second doubles as a sophomore and captured a WRC title on the second singles court his junior season, before finishing first singles runner-up last week. Not to mention, he was a state doubles qualifier with Banning last season.

“Playing first singles, there’s a little more pressure, but not really, on me to win and be the best on the team,” Cohen said. “I’ve had to play some really, really good people, though, and that’s good, even though I lost by a lot. I’m so glad I got that experience playing with them.

“I got to see how they play and how they play against me, and I got to see all my mistakes that I’m making compared to what they do. So, it’s a really good opportunity for me to learn from players that are better than me.”

In other WRC singles action, Kenston junior Nick Silva finished fourth in the second singles flight, losing his placement match by a tiebreaker against South’s Ian Grzincic, 6-2, 3-6, 1-0(4), while Kenston sophomore Bryce Grossman captured a title at third singles with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against Chardon freshman James Granger his finals match.

And in doubles, Kenston’s No. 1 tandem of junior Nate Fisher and Logan Fouts defeated Mayfield’s Trenton Lam and Justin Chen, 6-3, 6-0, for their title, while Kenston senior Chris Fantauzzo and sophomore Sam Wein won the second doubles flight with a 6-0, 6-1 title match victory against South’s Ryan Rini and Blaise Lombardo.

“Our match was real big at doubles,” Fisher said about defeating Mayfield’s top tandem. “We played them earlier in the season and we were really getting prepared for that match. It had to be the biggest match of the year for us. So, we really trained for Mayfield. Our coach prepared us really well.”

Despite battling a strained shoulder labrum last season, Fisher won the first doubles flight with Fantauzzo as his partner, but there wasn’t as much pressure in the team race with the Bombers sweeping the field in 2017.

Last week, Mayfield’s Lam-Chen tandem took a 2-0 lead on Fisher and freshman partner Fouts out of the gates, before the Bombers could settle in.

“Then we came back and were down, 3-2, and we proceeded to win 10 games in a row,” Fisher said. “We just started getting a lot of energy and our coach Torrey (McNeal) was hyping us up, so we started to dominate.

“We started getting real loud and it was kind of intimidating for them. They just kind of fell apart and we just kept powering through the match. They really couldn’t do anything about it. And they are very good players. We were just well prepared to play them. And Logan (Fouts) was clutch. He was playing very well. He had a lot of big shots.”

After the Wildcat tandem forced a second-set tiebreaker against Kenston in dual play, Fisher said winning the second set going away in tournament play was a highlight of the season.

“It felt amazing. When we won that match, it was just pure euphoria,” he said. “That was the team’s main goal, was to win the WRC. Every practice (Israelson) would remind us, and every time we would do a drill he would remind us that that is our main goal. It felt really good to make our coaches proud, our parents proud and especially the pride and joy it gave the team. We were all so happy after the win.”

In third singles action, meanwhile, sophomore Grossman took care of business after his older brother, 2017 graduate Brett Grossman, won that flight in last year’s WRC tournament.

“His brother came back into town and saw him play, and I joked with Brett, because Brett did it last year, and I said, ‘Wow, you did it your senior year, Brett, but your brother did it his sophomore year,” coach Israelson said. “Well, that started a battle at home.

“But I think Bryce watched his big brother play and he knows the game real well, and he hustles and keeps a lot of balls in play, and, I’ll tell you, that’s going to win most matches, especially in third singles. That was a key match for us, to get him to the finals and win, that was certainly a big piece to the puzzle.”

Another key match came during second doubles semifinals action, when Kenston’s Fantauzzo and Wein defeated Mayfield’s tandem, 6-4, 6-2.

“They had a little trouble in the semis against Mayfield,” Israelson said. “The first set I think they got up like 3-0, and then they were up, 4-1, and then the next thing it was 4-4, but then they put it together and they won.

“And in the finals, they had just beaten South the day before, and so they knew that team really well, and I think they just said, ‘We’re not going to be denied.’ They went out there and took it to them. So, they played well together.”

Fantauzzo and Wein won that flight, after Kenston’s Silva and 2017 graduate Onur Kardzhala won it last year. But with three Bombers graduating last season, including two singles players, Silva took on the second singles court for the Bombers this year.

“He won all but one challenge match for us this spring, and that was against Sammy Cohen,” coach Israelson said. “He’s got a nice forehand, and he’s a thinking person out there, because we can tell him to do something and he really works at it and knows what we’re talking about. So, I’m expecting big things for him next year too, when he’s a senior. So, he did well.”

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