Titans look to serve up a team championshipWritten by Scott Calhoun | | firstname.lastname@example.org
As an Ottawa Hills sophomore, singles tennis star Evan Bechtel advanced to the Ohio High School Athletic Association State Tennis Championships Division II quarterfinals as a member of boy’s tennis team.
Instead of continuing his quest to win a state singles title as a Green Bear, Bechtel transferred to St. John’s Jesuit as a junior, upgrading to an even tougher Division I field, because he simply wanted to enter a team pool of talent he believed would advance his game.
“Last year I did pretty well, but my goals at Ottawa Hills were pretty singular and I knew we didn’t have a lot of team depth,” Bechtel said. “I wanted to challenge myself to get better within the field of the United States Tennis Association (USTA) players.”
Bechtel has joined four other Titans in the top 10 of the USTA’s Northwest Ohio 18-year-old division rankings. But while Bechtel, who is the team’s highest USTA-ranked player, gets his personal wish fulfilled, he’s also fully locked in on helping St. John’s achieve big things on a team level.
With him added in, the Titans are loaded with four returning 2009 City League or Toledo Area Athletic Conference champs and three state qualifiers, making them a serious team championship contender in Ohio.
“As a team we can really do some damage at the state tournament,” Bechtel said, “and that gives me even more incentive to work harder.”
A convincing 4-1 victory over fellow state contender Cincinnati Sycamore at Shadow Valley Tennis Club on March 31 proved in the early stage of the season that Saint John’s is a contender.
“I’m mostly happy with the team’s work ethic, how hard they work and the camaraderie they’ve built,” said sixth-year coach Jim Davis. “Championships are won in the locker room, on team vans and at team dinners.”
Ryan Jorgensen, Devon Sbrocchi and Bechtel are all so good that Davis can and already has mixed them up among the three singles positions. Last year Jorgensen manned the top singles slot as a junior.
Josef Pontasch and Connor Majdalani each qualified to the D-I doubles state bracket as members of separate duos in 2009 but now join experienced forces to form an even stronger contending tandem.
Bobby Adusumilli and Madhav Mehta appear to be the go-to guys at No. 2 doubles, but the Titans’ depth goes even further.
The players push each other’s limits during early morning practices prior to the start of each school day, so even when the Titans aren’t vying against outside opponents, the intra-squad competition is just as intense.
“It’s really good to have so many really good players because it helps us all get better,” Jorgensen said. “It’s a big benefit for our team, and most teams don’t have the luxury of being able to do that.”
While the Ohio High School Athletic Association hosts the singles and doubles postseason tourney, it is the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association that conducts the Ohio State Team Championship tournament each season to determine which school is Ohio’s best in both boys and girls tennis.
While each singles or doubles player certainly hopes to serve up respective deep runs in the OHSAA postseason, collectively they and the rest of the Titans roster want that elusive team crown just as much as Davis.
“My job is to help us win a state title and that’s been our goal for the last three years,” Jorgensen said. “Whatever happens happens, but I think we have a great shot.”
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