At the district tournament in Canton on Friday, area tennis players had a pretty successful day.
Three singles players - Garrett Gardner of Poland, Jad Abdul-Aal of John F. Kennedy and Aaron Paczak of Lakeview - punched their tickets to the state tournament in Columbus, getting past their first two round matches and qualifying for the semifinal round, which, along with the final afterward, occurs today in Canton.
"We had an excellent showing (from the area sectional qualifiers) with Garrett, Jad and Aaron all making it to state," Lakeview coach Stephanie Hickey said. "It's nice to see (Aaron), Garrett and Jad, who've all worked hard at their game, succeed in this tournament. In my opinion, it's great for this area."
Abdul-Aal stretched out Kennedy's streak of sending an individual to the state tournament to six years by making quick work of his opponents. He beat Geneva's Jacob Grove in the first round, 6-4, 6-0, and then almost blanked Vermilion's Chaz Hansen in the second round, 6-0, 6-1. He faces Gilmour Academy's Weston Noall in the semifinals.
Having qualified for the state tournament last season, the senior said that his route to Columbus wasn't too difficult this time around.
"It felt easier this year," Abdul-Aal said. "I felt like I was playing a lot better today - a lot better than I did last year. I kind of breezed through both matches."
Paczak, meanwhile, had a tougher draw but got past Caleb Mayer of Lake Ridge Academy in the first round, 6-3, 6-0. He went up against Beachwood's Karan Gill in the second round and overcame the Bison player in three sets, 6-3, 6-7 (6), 6-3.
In the semifinal round, the Lakeview junior faces Gardner, who beat Roger Peckham of Lake Ridge Academy, 6-0, 6-1, and Sid Ahuja of Hawkin, 3-6, 6-2, 6-2.
"I told him before his first match that he has all the tools - today, all he has to do is play with his heart and his mind and leave everything out on the court and have fun," Hickey said. "That is exactly what he did because in that third set (against Gill), his mental focus and how he managed things that did not go his way and turned them around to make them positive just totally won the match for him."
The only area singles player to not move on was Ursuline's Les Horvath, who lost to Noall in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1.
While the singles players did well, the area saw all three doubles teams crash out of the tournament.
Lakeview's Eric Rohrabaugh and Zach Teffner lost to Kyle May and Brandon Caynor of Norton in the first round, 6-0, 6-2. Despite the loss, Hickey said she was proud of the sophomore-freshman duo.
"They were a better doubles team than we were today," Hickey said. "I'm really proud of the guys because the first time they ever played a match together was in the sectional tournament, and to come that far, they have a lot to be proud of."
Kennedy's Tyler Cole and John Nader breezed past Rocky River's Mike Ittu/Ryan McDermett, 6-0, 6-1, but they fell to Hawken's Adam Lee and Zid Yadav, 6-1, 6-1. This marked the third time that the juniors advanced to the district tournament but fell short of qualifying for Columbus.
"They had a tough draw this year," Abdul-Aal said. "They had a hell of a season, so I don't really think that they should keep their heads down. I definitely think that they can get there next year."
Cardinal Mooney's Rich Hill and Andrew Stille also lost in the first round to Chase Krummel and Andy Udevich of Hoban, 6-3, 6-1.