Brayden Smith was looking forward to contending for the first singles spot for the Grove City boys tennis team this spring.

The senior played behind 2019 graduate Tyler Sander last season, going 10-8 in singles play, including 1-1 in a Division I sectional tournament.

Smith's hopes of playing first singles ended, however, when the spring sports season was canceled because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic.

"It feels like I got something stolen from me," he said. "I don't get to play tennis, I don't get to say goodbye to everyone (at the graduation ceremony). We had a lot of seniors who were going to be playing varsity this year, so it was probably going to be one of our better seasons."

Smith was contending with senior Corbin Nickoloff at first singles, according to second-year coach Josh Chandler.

"Brayden and Corbin put in the work all summer," Chandler said. "Neither one of them missed an open court all summer. When we had our little kids camp for tennis, they were there every day helping me. They were there every day helping (with the) girls tennis (team). They were at all our offseason conditioning and lifting, so I really feel sorry for them."

Smith credits Sander for providing him guidance and competition last season.

"We played every day at practice," Smith said. "The competition, playing the best, that's how you get better."

Smith had hoped to contend for a district berth and earn all-OCC-Ohio Division recognition this spring.

Senior Kevin Coakley also was expected to play singles, while seniors Tyler Fulk and Eddie Stevens were contending to play first doubles.

"I feel so bad for all my seniors this year not being able to play seeing how hard they worked over the summer and in the offseason," Chandler said. "They were building up to this senior year. We're going to be losing a lot this year and them not being able to play their senior year really stinks because I thought we could win a bunch of matches."

Smith played second doubles as a freshman and first doubles as a sophomore before playing second singles a year ago.

He also competed in cross country all four years, leading the Greyhounds in the Division I district meet last fall by finishing 57th (17 minutes, 46.6 seconds).

"I like tennis more, but I think I might have been better at cross country," Smith said. "It's a little easier to train for cross country, where tennis I picked up in the last few years and that's a sport where you have to play your whole life to get really good."

Smith, who has a 3.2 GPA, plans to attend Ohio University, where he is considering playing club tennis.

"Coach Chandler is great," Smith said. "We did open courts three days a week over the summer and I improved a lot during that time."

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