Reynoldsburg Roundup: Raiders’ Jaden Coley surprises way to district in tennis

Jarrod Ulrey
ThisWeek group
Jaden Coley upset the fourth-seeded and top-seeded players in a Division I sectional en route to becoming the first Reynoldsburg singles player to reach district since 2015.

In the midst of a third-set tiebreaker during the first postseason match of his prep career, Reynoldsburg’s Jaden Coley took a temporary seat next to the net. 

The sophomore boys tennis player, facing Westerville North senior Carter Jones in the first round of the Division I sectional May 11 on the Raiders’ home court, used the moment to determine how to move forward before switching sides with the tiebreaker tied at 6. 

“Breathe,” Coley said to himself while briefly sitting down on the court. “(I had to) figure out my next plan and, most importantly, just focus on my breathing. I usually rush and that makes me tired, so I tell myself positive affirmations so I can keep going.” 

Although Coley and Jones were unseeded, they both played first singles during the regular season, and Jones had won a sectional singles match in 2019. 

In the end, Coley prevailed 7-5, 5-7, 7-6 (9-7) and went on to reach the sectional championship match, where he lost 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) to second-seeded Joshua McKnight of Olentangy Berlin. 

With the runner-up finish, he earned a spot in the district tournament May 20 and 22 at Reynoldsburg. The top four finishers in singles advanced to state May 28 and 29 at Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason. 

“(The match against Jones) was the first match he had to play and you don’t see matches like that that often where you’ve got two players playing like that in the first round, with high drama for sure,” coach Brett Stewart said.

“He’s grown tremendously from the very first match that he played up until now. He’s calmer and has become more consistent. In the beginning, he was like, ‘Hit, hit, hit,’ and he definitely has more of a plan now. That’s definitely one thing that’s improved significantly from the beginning of the season until now, which is great.” 

Coley, who previously competed in tournaments and at the junior level before losing his freshman year of competition because of the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic, won his second sectional match 6-0, 6-0 over Teays Valley’s Jack Kennedy. 

Then in a district-qualifying match, he upset fourth-seeded Fedor Bakunin of Dublin Coffman 6-4, 0-6, 6-3 to reach a semifinal. 

He then pulled another upset, beating top-seeded Abraham Houghland of Grove City, 6-4, 7-6 (7-5) to reach the sectional final. 

Coley became the first Reynoldsburg singles player to reach district since Cameron Raglin, who made it to state in 2012 and 2013 and was a district qualifier in 2014 and 2015. 

Also at the sectional in singles, junior James Knorr won his first two matches before losing to Watkins Memorial’s Andrew Hare, the No. 3 seed, 6-2, 6-3 in a quarterfinal and senior Brian McClain lost in the first round after winning a play-in match. 

In doubles, seniors Ryan Burns and Dane Myers lost in the first round and sophomores David Harris and Malik Stallings fell in the second round. 

“I’m proud of my team,” Coley said. “I’m proud of myself because last year I was new to this and I’m not really used to playing match after match after match. I’m pretty proud of all of us. We’ve been playing well.” 

Junior Madelyn Rettke is expected to be one of the top returnees for the Reynoldsburg softball team.

Softball team 

gains experience 

During what would become a four-run top of the seventh inning for Central Crossing in the first round of the Division I district tournament May 10, the softball team limited the damage when junior right fielder Kiaira Whatley threw to junior shortstop Alexis Romero, who then threw to freshman Marley Smith at third base for an out. 

The 37th-seeded Raiders scored once in the bottom of the frame but came up short 10-9 against the 40th-seeded Comets to finish 5-19 overall.

There were five seniors in the program, but the trio of Romero, Smith and Whatley figures to be part of the nucleus of returnees next spring. 

“We got some young girls some experience,” coach Tony Rettke said. “Marley is one we can probably put anywhere on the field and she can contribute. Most of my roster only plays when (high school softball) season starts.” 

The Raiders lose a senior class that featured Carson Barry (C), Paige Coey (P), Sierra Coey (C), Kaylie Lott (P/INF) and Kayli Soublet (P/INF). 

Junior Madelyn Rettke saw action at first base but could be an option next season at pitcher, where she’ll likely join freshman Alexandria Turner, who moved up from junior varsity late in the season. 

Junior Makayla Brooks is a left-handed slap hitter who played center field. 

Reynoldsburg went 1-7 in the OCC-Buckeye Division to finish fifth, with its league win coming 14-10 over Central Crossing on April 22. 

“We have some j.v. players that were looking pretty good,” coach Rettke said. “I’m disappointed in some ways (about the season) but glad they had a season. I just wish we had another week or two.”

Raiders win four 

OCC track titles 

In its final tune-up before opening the postseason in the Division I, district 1 meet, which concluded May 22 at Hilliard Darby, the boys and girls track and field teams competed in the OCC-Buckeye meet May 13 and 15 at Lancaster. 

The boys scored 115 points to finish behind Lancaster (168) and Pickerington Central (153) and ahead of Groveport (51), Newark (30) and Central Crossing (6), while the girls scored 63 to place behind Central (164), Lancaster (158.5) and Newark (95) and ahead of Groveport (38) and Central Crossing (2.5). 

Winning titles for the boys were Markez Gillam in the 200 meters (21.87 seconds), Kyle Cannon in the 400 (49.14), Seth Davis in the 800 (1:57.1) and Andre Turner in the long jump (21 feet, 4 3/4 inches).

Davis added a runner-up finish in the 1,600 (4:32.19), J’Tahn Ellison was second in the high jump (6-0) and Ibrahim Fall was runner-up in the 400 (50.06). The 800 relay of Gillam, Deon Campbell, Sedric Cowans and Zion Jackson-Wilborn (1:30.75) and the 3,200 relay of Alex Begeny, Marsellis Davis, Seth Davis and Jackson Powell (8:13.41) also were runners-up. 

Leading the girls with individual runner-up finishes were Nya Collier in the 100 hurdles (17.63) and Avril Moyer in the 3,200 (12:04.39). 

Also finishing second were the 400 relay of Milan Patterson, Kasha Rhodes, Jamiona Ross and Hollyn Tillman (49.96) and the 800 relay of Aquilla Jacobs, Patterson, Rhodes and Tillman (1:51.26). 

The top four in each district event advanced to the regional May 27 and 29 at Pickerington North, where with the top four in each event advance to state June 4 and 5 at Darby.

julrey@thisweeknews.com 

@UlreyThisWeek 

SOFTBALL 

Record: 5-19 overall  

OCC-Buckeye standings: Lancaster (9-1), Pickerington Central (8-2), Groveport (7-3), Newark (3-6), Reynoldsburg (1-7), Central Crossing (0-9) 

Seniors lost: Carson Barry, Paige Coey, Sierra Coey, Kaylie Lott and Kayli Soublet 

Key returnees: Makayla Brooks, Olivia Elston, Madelyn Rettke, Alexis Romero, Marley Smith and Kiaira Whatley 

Postseason: Lost to Central Crossing 10-9 in first round of Division I district tournament