Brett Holcomb uses a strategic approach in a sport he knew next to nothing about when he tried out for the Grandview Heights High School boys tennis program as a freshman.
The senior has come a long way and now plays first singles for the Bobcats, competing against the best the opposition has to offer. He tries to play a couple of strokes ahead of his opponents, much like he would as a member of Grandview's competitive chess team.
"One thing that I really love about tennis is that it's more strategic," said Holcomb, who has a 4.42 GPA and will study mathematics at Xavier. "You have to get them to think that you are hitting to one side of the court but you fake and go the other way. You try to trick your opponent and bait them into doing the things you want them to do."
Strategy, however, was not on his mind when he began playing. He was too busy trying to figure out the scoring as well as serving and volleys.
Basically, Holcomb was just trying to make it through matches.
"I started playing my freshman year, and it was kind of when I first picked up a tennis racket," he said. "My game has improved tremendously since then. I couldn't serve the ball, I couldn't hit the ball very well, but I somehow made the varsity team. I learned enough my freshman year and my game has improved a little bit every year, like putting topspin on the ball and getting the strokes down."
Although Holcomb was 2-6 before the Bobcats played Ready on April 17, coach Kathy Kinnard said he has held his ground against some top-flight competition.
"Brett is definitely a self-made tennis player," Kinnard said. "He loves to play tennis. He would go down to the courts and just hit around with his friends in the summer.
"Now he's on the first court and most everyone has a good player there, and a lot of them play year-round. He goes out and battles and plays tough against them. He's a fighter and he moves well. He runs things down and never gives up."
Holcomb has remained positive, and he said it has been easy because of the team's success.
The Bobcats were 7-1 overall before playing Ready and are 1-1 in the MSL-Ohio Division. They lost to Worthington Christian 3-2 on April 2.
"It's tough because a lot of the kids that I play are year-round players," Holcomb said. "I try to play as hard as I can and have fun with it. This year we're winning matches that we have never won before. We beat Grove City (3-2 on April 10) and I don't know if we have ever beaten them."
Holcomb credited the boost to a talented freshman class. Max Lauer has been playing second singles, with Keegan Kearney joining senior Patrick Rowland at first doubles and Connor Hayes playing second doubles with senior Adam Cincione.
Against Grove City, Lauer won at second singles, junior Calvin Horning won at third singles and Cincione and Hayes won at second doubles.
"We have some freshmen playing for us and all of them have played tennis prior to high school, which I know helps coming in," Holcomb said. "We have depth and we can switch people around. One court is usually not that much better than another."
Holcomb played basketball until his senior season, when he switched to bowling. He said playing basketball made him a better tennis player, especially when competing in singles.
"I played doubles twice as a sophomore and I wasn't that good," he said. "I think I'm more suited for singles because I played basketball and I have better footwork. I can move all around the court instead of (dealing with) the technical net game in doubles."
Baseball team wins first 11 contests
The baseball team continued its hot streak to begin the season, standing at 11-0 overall and 2-0 in the MSL-Ohio before playing Bexley on April 15.
The Bobcats shut out their first two league opponents. Luke Berlin struck out seven with one walk and surrendered five hits over 6 1/3 innings in a 4-0 win over Worthington Christian on April 8. Gavin Van Horn recorded the final two outs, including a strikeout. Joey Bertani had a two-run double, and Jon Vetter doubled, singled and drove in two.
Van Horn tossed a two-hitter with eight strikeouts and two walks in a 9-0 win over the Warriors on April 10. Jon-Micah Griffith had two singles and three RBI, Glenn Cribbs drove in two with a triple and Bertani had a two-run double.
Through 11 games, Van Horn had team highs in batting average (.633), on-base percentage (.744), runs (21) and stolen bases (9) and also had 10 RBI. He also was 3-0 with a 0.36 ERA, 29 strikeouts and six walks in 19 2/3 innings.
Berlin was 2-0 and had not given up an earned run in 17 innings with 12 strikeouts and four walks. Vetter was 3-0 with a 2.63 ERA, 21 strikeouts and 12 walks in 13 1/3 innings and was batting .444 with 12 RBI and six runs.
Bertani was batting .528 with 26 RBI and 16 runs. Jake Hollar was hitting .409 with 20 runs and eight stolen bases.
Track teams notch program records
The boys and girls track and field teams have eclipsed a couple of longstanding program records.
Junior Liza DeVere set the girls mark for the high jump with an effort of 5 feet, 2 3/4 inches in the Russ Owen Bexley Relays on April 12. She broke the former standard of 5-2 1/2 set by Jennifer Gafford in 1994.
Junior Iain McCormick cleared 14-6 in the pole vault in the season-opening meet April 1 at Olentangy Liberty. Bruce Buchanan set the former mark of 13-2 in 1962.