For Stu Brdicka, tennis is more about what's between his ears than what's between the lines.
The Olentangy High School boys team's junior standout enters the Division I state tournament Friday, May 26, and Saturday, May 27, at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason with a 25-1 record and coming off a third-place finish at district.
Brdicka thinks that without an improved mental approach, he wouldn't be competing this weekend.
"I love how things have gone," he said. "My coach (Rick Naumoff, at Olympic Indoor Tennis Club) has been a big factor. I switched to him maybe about two years ago, but I have been taking more consistent lessons through the past year. I think that's what's been the key factor.
"I've just staying in the point longer. I used to get down on myself when I lost, and that was not where I wanted to be. Rick has helped me that way. Probably, my speed and chasing balls down (are my strengths). Consistency is big. My backhand has improved somewhat with my depth and consistency."
Brdicka qualified for state with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Thomas Worthington's Kai Britz on May 18 at Hilliard Davidson, and after suffering his first loss of the season in a district semifinal May 20 at Upper Arlington, 7-5, 6-2 to Hilliard Bradley's Mitchell Thai, Brdicka rebounded to sweep Dublin Coffman's Bryan Yoshino 6-2, 6-2 in the third-place match.
The top four finishers in singles and doubles advanced to state.
Brdicka was 0-1 in doubles at state as a freshman. He fell short of a return last year by going 1-1 at district.
"I definitely wanted to and expected myself to contend for state," he said. "State was my goal, but going undefeated (into district) was unexpected."
Braves coach Jeff Luxenburger said Brdicka's cerebral approach always has been his biggest strength.
"His physical game has caught up to his mental game," Luxenburger said. "Stu has always had one of the best temperaments that I've ever seen. That can be what lifts him on a particular day. Some of the decisions he makes are what keeps him in matches, even on days when he is outpowered by a player. He will never be outmatched mentally. He knows how to think his way around a tennis match."
Also competing at district but failing to advance were the doubles team of Pradhit Gosula and Alex Ulry and singles player Alex Konstan, each of whom went 0-1.
"I am so proud of them for making it. This was the goal all along for some of our guys," Luxenburger said. "This district is very talented, and we knew we'd have an uphill climb. We wanted to compete a little more and have some better first-round matches, but we're just proud of them for getting this far."
Field athletes lead
Braves at district
Kyle Brookshire of the boys track and field team won the Division I, district 2 championship in the pole vault May 16 at Hilliard Darby, and all three of the girls team's regional qualifiers also advanced in field events.
Brookshire vaulted 14 feet, 4 inches to give the Braves their only title, as they finished third (63 points) of 15 teams behind champion Gahanna (151) in the meet that concluded May 20. The top four finishers in each event advanced to regional, which began May 24 and concludes Friday, May 26, at Pickerington North.
Other regional qualifiers for the boys were Anthony Sasso in the 800 meters (second, 1 minute, 56.09 seconds), Zach Balthaser in the 1,600 (third, 4:28.36) and 800 (fourth, 1:56.41), the 1,600 relay (second, 3:24.97) with Balthaser, Jeremy Kendle, Joel Michael and Sasso, the 3,200 relay (second, 8:08.09) of Balthaser, Kendle, Grant Maddox and Sasso and the 400 relay (fourth, 44.24) with DeAnte Ables, Jaydon Hill, Jaden Konadu and Michael.
Led by Holly Nation's runner-up finish in the high jump (5-2), the girls finished seventh (34) of 16 teams in district 2 behind champion Gahanna (158.5).
The girls team's other two regional qualifiers both came in the pole vault. Siobhan Szerencsits was second (12-4) and Madeline Barnes placed third (11-8).
At regional, the top four finishers in each event qualify for the state meet June 2 and 3 at Ohio State.
Baseball team falls
in wild district final
The baseball team fell short of its second consecutive Division I district championship in dramatic fashion May 18, losing to seventh-seeded Gahanna 11-10 at Coffman.Video •Watch an interview with Olentangy baseball coach Ryan Lucas.
Senior Jake McIntyre (P/2B/OF) hit a two-run home run in the third inning to tie the game at 7.
The Braves took an 8-7 lead in the fourth on a homer from sophomore Logan Ketron (P/C/OF), but fell behind 11-8 by the middle of the seventh. Olentangy committed two errors in that inning to allow two runs, and in the bottom of the seventh scored two runs on walks before a fielder's choice ended the game.
The third-seeded Braves, who finished 21-5 overall, advanced to the final by defeating ninth-seeded Mount Vernon 4-3 in a district semifinal May 16 at Delaware.
"Each game, we have a different guy step up," senior Cameron Kaiser (P/1B/3B) said. "I might go 0-for-3 and other guys will step up and get runs across. You can't ask for much more than that. It's great to build on what we did last year."
The Braves went 12-3 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to win their third consecutive league title ahead of Orange (10-5), Westerville Central (8-7), Liberty (7-8), Westerville North (7-8) and Westerville South (1-14).
Olentangy began the 46-team district tournament with a 5-0 win over visiting and 32nd-seeded Delaware in the second round May 10.
Kaiser (.458, 33 hits), senior pitcher/utility player Berto Carselle (.464, 32 hits) and sophomore pitcher/outfielder Caden Kaiser (.437, team-best 38 hits) were named first-team all-league and first-team all-district, and junior shortstop Josh Moeller (.389, 28 hits) also was first-team all-league.
Junior Nick Foy (P/1B) was second-team all-league, McIntyre was special mention all-league and Ketron was honorable mention all-league.
Carselle, an Illinois Institute of Technology recruit, was 11-5 with a 4.31 ERA, 11 walks and 20 strikeouts in 37 1/3 innings. Caden Kaiser was 10-4 with a 2.52 ERA, 10 walks and 28 strikeouts in 33 innings, and Cameron Kaiser was 9-5 with a 1.57 ERA, 11 walks and 30 strikeouts in 35 2/3 innings.
The win over Mount Vernon was the 100th in coach Ryan Lucas' career. He ended the season with a record of 100-40.
tries to keep rolling
The boys volleyball team sought its ninth consecutive win when it played ninth-seeded Pickerington North in a Division I East Region semifinal May 23.
Seeded third in the region, Olentangy improved to 20-3 with a 25-13, 25-9, 25-19 win over visiting and 13th-seeded UA in a first-round match May 20.
The Olentangy-North winner will play second-seeded Westerville South or fourth-seeded Davidson in a regional final Friday, May 26, at Westerville Central. The regional champion will advance to a state quarterfinal June 2.
The Braves lost twice to South in OCC-Buckeye play, 25-17, 25-18, 25-22 on April 4 and 25-13, 25-15, 24-26, 25-11 on April 20. Those were Olentangy's only two league losses.
Boys lacrosse team
nears regional final
A trip to the Division I, Region 1 final was on the line May 24 when the second-seeded boys lacrosse team played host to third-seeded Orange in a regional semifinal.
Olentangy entered the game at 14-5.
The Braves won their first two tournament games at home. They defeated 13th-seeded Wadsworth 17-2 on May 17 and seventh-seeded Whitehouse Anthony Wayne on May 20.
The Olentangy-Orange winner will play top-seeded Liberty or fifth-seeded Dela-ware in the regional final Saturday, May 27, at a neutral site to be determined. The regional champion will play Cleveland St. Ignatius, Hudson, Massillon Jackson or North Canton Hoover in a state semifinal Wednesday, May 31, at a neutral site to be determined.
The state final is June 3 at Ohio Wesleyan.
Of those teams, Olentangy lost to Liberty 7-5 on April 20.
Girls lacrosse team
falls to Medina
The girls lacrosse team gave host and third-seeded Medina all it could handle in a Division I, Region 1 quarterfinal May 19 before losing 10-9.
Fourth-seeded Olentangy finished 13-6.
The Braves began the tournament with a 21-6 home win over 12th-seeded Westerville North in the first round May 16.