UA caps season with another OTCA team title
In the wake of winning their second consecutive Division I Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team championship June 2 at Reynoldsburg, members of the Upper Arlington High School boys tennis team hung around the Raiders' facility for about half an hour taking pictures with teammates and family.
The Golden Bears were in no hurry to end the moment.
A 3-0 win over Copley in the final capped a memorable 24 hours and season. On June 1, senior Nate Wallace and junior Jeffrey Melvin won the program's state-record 17th state doubles championship with a 3-6, 7-5, 6-3 win over Cincinnati Sycamore's Deepak Indrakanti and Dylan Stern.
Senior Stu Little finished third in singles, defeating Gahanna's Canyon Teague 6-3, 6-3 in a consolation match that was a rematch of a district final. Little, who teamed with 2011 graduate Billy Weldon to win doubles titles as a freshman and sophomore, handed Teague two of his three losses this season.
"It was a good career," said Little, who will play at the University of Pennsylvania. "I had some shortfalls considering there were two years I didn't win state, so I guess 50 percent of my career was great."
On June 2, UA was the picture of intensity after a 4-1 semifinal win over Sycamore. The Bears then went out and clinched their third OTCA state title in four years and 17th overall.
Against Copley, Little defeated Andrew Ong 6-3, 6-1 and Melvin beat Matt Adzema 6-0, 6-2 in singles and the doubles team of senior Peter Pema and freshman Eric Hunter beat Gavin Aten and Alan Du 6-1, 6-2 to seal the title.
UA also got wins from senior Brandon Griffin, who beat Nick Adzema 6-2, 5-1 in singles, and the doubles team of Wallace and senior Ben Minton, who defeated Austin Aten and Jared Pennington 6-4, 5-1.
"They came out and they played with the best intensity and the best focus I've seen all season, even better (than at state)," coach Amos Allison said. "There was no slow start today. There was no letdown. Every kid stayed focused from the first point to the last. They dug out balls I haven't seen some of them dig out, ever. They made big shots I'd seen them make sporadically, but they were consistent today."
In the OTCA semifinal, Indrakanti and Stern got a measure of revenge from the previous day with a 3-6, 6-2, 6-1 over Wallace and Minton. On other courts, Little beat Nakul Narendran 6-2, 6-1, Melvin defeated Yuri Karev 6-1, 7-5, Griffin beat Alex Taylor 6-1, 6-3 and Pema and Hunter defeated Mustata Ahmad and Nikil Grandhi 6-4, 4-6, 6-3.
At state, Wallace and Melvin trailed 5-0 in the first set of the championship match but won three of the final four games of the set and used that momentum in the final two sets.
"We just had to change our mindset and focus once we knew we had to go three (sets)," Wallace said. "We stayed positive. We kept each other up."
"I thought our serving and our returns were key for us, as well as putting the ball away," Melvin said. "We had to stay in the match and get more volleys."
Wallace and Melvin swept Copley's Austin and Gaven Aten in the first round at state 6-0, 6-0, beat North Canton Hoover's Rob DeMarco and Mike O'Connor 6-1, 7-5 in the second round and Mason's Alexander Lebedev and Young-Jin Kang 6-3, 6-4 in a semifinal.
Little opened state with a 3-6, 6-0, 6-3 win over Hudson's Steven Boslet, then beat Cleveland St. Ignatius' Nathan Griffin 6-3, 6-0 before losing to Cuyahoga Falls Walsh Jesuit's Aaron Sandberg 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-2) in a semifinal.
UA is losing five seniors who were part of a program that went 71-5 in dual matches and 28-0 in the OCC-Central Division the last four seasons.
This spring, UA went 17-2 overall, including 7-0 in the OCC-Central. The Bears earned 81 of a possible 82 points in league play to finish ahead of Dublin Coffman (63, 6-1), Hilliard Davidson (63, 5-2), Olentangy Liberty (42, 3-4), Thomas Worthington (36, 3-4) and Marysville (33, 3-4), Central Crossing (12, 1-6) and Westland (0, 0-7). The Bears swept all five courts in the league tournament May 11 at home to secure their 31st consecutive league title.
On May 16 and 18 at its home sectional, UA advanced every player to district for the second consecutive year and third time in the past four. Little defeated Griffin 6-2, 6-0 in the singles final, and Hunter moved on by finishing third as the top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to district.
Melvin and Wallace defeated Minton and Pema 6-0, 6-2 in the doubles final.
At district May 24 and 25 at Davidson, Little won his second consecutive district title and Melvin and Wallace won the doubles championship to ensure that UA would have a state qualifier for the 55th consecutive season.
Also at district, Griffin and Hunter each went 1-1 as did Minton and Pema, as the top four finishers advanced to state.
Griffin will play at Mary Washington, a Division III school in Fredericksburg, Va., and Wallace will play at DePauw, a Division III school in Greencastle, Ind.
Other expected returnees include sophomores Brian Lee, Tyler Holsopple and Aaron Yang and freshman Jackson McNair.