One player surely can make all the difference in a high school tennis team’s dual record, but the Chagrin Falls aces proved the depth of their talent during the Division II sectional tournament on Saturday in Rocky River.
Not only did Tiger freshman Andrew Zimcosky remain unbeaten by capturing the singles title among 35 players from 12 schools, but Chagrin Falls sophomore Jackson Quinn, as well as the doubles team of junior Michael Grady and senior Peyton Lewis, upset the top seeds in their brackets to finish runners-up.
After sending zero rackets to districts last year, the Chagrin Falls boys advanced four players on three courts and will be the second-best represented team among 50 Division II squads in Northeast Ohio this Friday and Saturday at the Springside Racquet and Fitness Club in Akron.
Only Youngstown Ursuline, with players on two singles courts and two doubles courts, will be better represented. The Ursuline Fighting Irish aces are ranked fourth among Division II teams in the state, according to Ohio Tennis Zone.
“It’s very fun,” Chagrin Falls 10th-year head coach Leslie Lozon said about this year’s success.
“I think it’s always such a great addition to have a true No. 1 at No. 1,” she said of Zimcosky. “It’s just, all the boys have come together. The camaraderie has been incredible, and I think, with Andrew being where he is at tennis, it’s totally helped the kids to zone in.”
Chagrin Falls went 12-2 in dual matches this season, with Zimcosky going 14-0 on the No. 1 singles court.
During the two-day sectional tournament last Wednesday and Saturday at Tri-City Park in Rocky River, the freshman phenom defeated all five of his opponents in straight sets with a combined 60-5 game record.
During the first day of the tournament, Zimcosky beat Tallmadge’s Sam Suber, 6-0, 6-0, Orange freshman Rohit Kashyap, 6-1, 6-0, and, in the quarterfinals, Cloverleaf’s George Gillespie, 6-0, 6-0, to punch his ticket to districts.
“I just go into it one match at a time and take it from there,” Zimcosky said about not feeling pressure from his undefeated record. “Pretty much my goal is to put it all out there every match.
“(The quarterfinals) match was obviously the biggest match that day, especially being the third one. You can be a little tired and sometimes a little lazy. And, so, going into that one, I tried to really start out on top from the beginning and try to get confidence early to make it a little bit hard for him to come back. And I thought I did a really good job and kept pushing. I really didn’t give up during that match.”
After two days to rest and prepare, Zimcosky, who earned the No. 2 seed for the tournament, ran the show against Bay’s No. 3-seed junior Ben Anderson, 6-1, 6-0, during his semifinals match on Saturday.
Avoiding third sets in every match this season, Saturday’s placement rounds were no different for Zimcosky.
“Coming into that match, the big thing I was focusing on was just staying really consistent,” he said of taking on Anderson. “I just wanted to get a rhythm early and put the pressure on him. There were a couple of close games in there where we were rallying some of the points out. But, as I started to separate, it was a little bit harder for him to stick to his game.”
Advancing to the championship match, Zimcosky ended up locking horns with sophomore teammate Quinn, the No. 4 seed of the singles bracket, and won a 6-2, 6-1 battle for the sectional title.
“It’s kind of weird playing your teammate in the finals there,” Zimcosky said. “Going into that match, you know, I’ve played some of my friends in tournaments before, and my grandpa told me, ‘If I have to give you one piece of advice for this tournament, the biggest thing is you’re not playing Jackson. Look at it as playing some other competitor.’
“You know, it’s tough to go into matches and play your friend. So, I went in with that mentality, and it was definitely closer than the scores showed.”
Quinn, meanwhile, who came one match shy of a district berth in doubles action last season, punched his singles ticket with authority this year.
In his opening rounds during the first day of the tournament, Quinn defeated Padua’s Sam Verderber, 6-0, 6-0, Rocky River’s Tony Ilias, 6-0, 6-0, and, in the quarterfinals, Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy sophomore Alex Stout, 6-3, 6-0.
Stout owned a 3-1 lead in the first set against Quinn, but, once Quinn won five straight games to close out the first set, Stout’s game went limp, Quinn said.
“In the match before he played me, he went three sets with (Orange freshman Noah Lurie),” Quinn said of Stout. “And after playing his three-set match before me, he just completely tanked in that quarterfinal match. It should have been a lot closer than it was, but, after I came back from going down, 3-1, in the first set, I just kept going and ended up winning 11 straight games.”
Although both Quinn and Stout represented the No. 2 singles courts in dual matches during the regular season, CVCA’s top two players, senior Cole Ferren and Stout, shied away from Chagrin’s Zimcosky and Quinn in a dual the week before sectionals.
Ferren did not play, and Stout moved down to first doubles. Nonetheless, Ferren was still awarded the top seed for the sectional singles tournament.
“We were just coming off the seed meeting, and I nominated Andrew (Zimcosky) to be the one seed, and they said, ‘No, no. It has to be Cole (Ferren),” coach Lozon said. “No one knew Andrew, so, majority ruled, and Cole won first seed.
“And then here we are playing them (in a dual) later that week and I’m like, ‘Where’s Cole?’ And they go, ‘Oh, his back needed rest.’ So, yeah, that was silly. We know we showed up to play a straight lineup.”
When the sectional semifinals rolled around on Saturday, Chagrin’s No. 4-seed Quinn upset CVCA’s No. 1-seed Ferren, 3-6, 6-1, 6-4, despite Ferren having a rested back and all.
And while Chagrin’s No. 2-seed Zimcosky whooped Bay’s Anderson, 6-1, 6-0, in the other semifinal, Ferren struggled to win his third-place match against Anderson, 4-6, 7-6, 6-2.
After No. 4-seed Quinn lost the first set of that semifinal against Ferren, Quinn said, “I was really just thinking through, like, what am I struggling with right here and what is one of the things that I need to change? And one of the things I realized was that I wasn’t being very patient, and there were too many errors in my game.”
Regrouping for the U-turn second set, Quinn said he was focused on keeping quiet, not showing any emotion and just really keying in on getting every single ball back.
“And he really just couldn’t handle that at all,” Quinn said. “I just took a lot of pace off of the rallies, and it forced him to have to control the points, and he couldn’t do that. He just missed a lot of shots. And losing a second set, 6-1, it’s really brutal, and he was definitely in his own head there.”
Trading games to open the third set, Ferren went up, 4-3, before Quinn won three straight frames to close out the match.
After Quinn went 12-2 in the dual play on the No. 2 singles court in the regular season, he said defeating Ferren was the first match where he played a really good player and put up a solid fight.
“Before the match, talking to all these different people, all I was hearing was, ‘Oh, he’s such a great player, and he’s really strong,’” Quinn said. “I even heard from one of the kids from Beachwood, I was telling him, ‘Yeah, I definitely think I’m going to give him a good fight and hopefully win it.’ And he said right to my face, ‘No, you’re going to get killed.’
“That was really just some extra motivation for me.”
In doubles play, meanwhile, Chagrin’s No. 4-seed tandem of Grady and Lewis took care of Bay’s Anthony Vangelos and Henry Bohac, 6-0, 6-1, in their opening match, before going the distance to defeat Rocky River’s Christian Devorace and Julian Clark, 4-6, 6-4, 6-4, in the quarterfinals.
While Grady was a tiebreaker away from advancing to districts in singles last year, Lewis had a tough opening draw in doubles play with his older brother, Connor, now graduated.
“Michael (Grady) is very consistent, and he was pretty successful at third singles all year,” coach Lozon said. “And then Peyton (Lewis) is just a phenomenal athlete. So, you put Peyton’s speed and hands at the net with Michael’s consistency, we got some good results.”
In their semifinals match, Grady and Lewis defeated Orange’s No. 1-seed tandem of senior Ilon Goldberg and junior Jonah Conway, 4-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Truth be told, Goldberg’s intended partner became unavailable for the postseason, and Conway filled in as a reserve. But that Lion tandem still played well with a 6-0, 6-0 victory against Cloverleaf’s Parker Gregoire and Jacob Ewart, before winning its quarterfinal match against Beachwood junior Max Steiger and sophomore Ilan Amkraut, 6-1, 6-2, entering the semifinal match against Chagrin’s tandem.
“They’re kind of slow out of the starting gate,” Lozon said of Grady and Lewis losing their opening sets in both the quarters and the semis. “That’s just kind of how they’ve been, which means nothing, because they come back, and they’re both in great shape. So, they don’t tire out, and they figure it out.”
Grady and Lewis ended up finishing runners-up in the finals against Beachwood senior Ryan Muencz and junior Mathew Young, 6-1, 6-1, who were the Bison’s top two singles players in the regular season, while Orange’s Goldberg and Conway took fourth against CVCA’s Curtis Kolb and Noah Rios, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6.
For the district singles tournament, Chagrin’s Zimcosky will open play against Ursuline senior Sean O’Connor, while Quinn will take on Lakeview junior Jake McDivitt.
And in the district doubles tournament, Chagrin’s Grady and Lewis will open play against Poland seniors Sam Scotford and Sam Delatore, while Orange’s Goldberg and Conway will take on St. Vincent-St. Mary senior Sam Volk and sophomore Matthew O’Connor.
Competitors who win their first two matches will advance to states.