It was called the Division II Strongsville sectional tournament but it might as well have been called the Orange sectional tournament.
The Orange Lions’ boys’ tennis team’s stellar season continued by sweeping the sectional tournament last Saturday at Strongsville.
Junior Ben Pomeranets repeated as the sectionals singles champion and senior Jake Goldstein and sophomore Gabi Kalir captured the doubles title paving the way for all seven Orange players to earn district berths.
“It’s something you dream about as a coach but I never really thought I’d see it happen,” said Coach Rich Bole. “It took a little bit of lottery luck in terms of getting a good draw. It also took the guys having a great season and performing well at the tournament and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Only one Lions’ player was unseeded and it was all Orange in both the singles and doubles finals.
Goldstein and Kalir’s run started when they swept Lake Ridgers’ Adam Zaky and Jacob Roberston 6-0, 6-0 in the second round then earned a district berth by beating Andy Jin and Tory Lang 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals.
The Lions’ duo defeated Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s David Van Hala and Carson Reske 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals to advance to their second consecutive championship.
Goldstein and Kalir’s previous sectional finals appearance saw them fall to Orange’s then number one doubles team Josh and Chika Nwaozuzu.
The Nwaozuzus headlined the Lions’ doubles last season but now Goldstein and Kalir have become the new team to beat.
“Jake and Gabi have played two years together now and really they’re playing at such an incredibly high level right now,” said the third-year coach. “In a way I feel they’ve taken the mantle of being the leaders of Orange doubles and teaching their teammates how to play the doubles game right.”
On the other side of the bracket, it was junior Krish Mehra and sophomore Ace Bloom dominating.
The Orange tandem swept Rocky Rivers’ Colin Kelly and Sergio Lucey 6-0, 6-0 in the second round then topped Benji Jamison and Andrew Lazowski 6-2, 6-1 to automatically become district qualifiers.
Mehra and Bloom ousted Oberlin’s Oliver Knijenburg and Grant Martz 6-2, 6-0 in the semifinals to advance to the championship.
Goldstein and Kalir captured the doubles title by besting their teammates 6-0, 6-2.
Once again Pomeranets dominated the singles bracket.
The Lions’ junior swept Lake Rigers’ Ayaa Siddiqi 6-0, 6-0 in the second round and topped Peter Angelino from Chagrin Falls 6-0, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
Pomeranets continued his run when he bested Bay’s Gus Premier 6-0, 6-2 earning himself his second consecutive district berth.
His semifinals opponent was projected to be Beachwood’s Landis Teren but Lions’ freshman Gabe Guiler had other plans.
Despite being unseeded, Guiler upset the field by winning three straight matches to become a district qualifier.
He first beat Jonathan Van Hala from Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy 6-3, 6-0 in the second round then ousted Teren in the third round.
Guiler took the lead by winning the first set 6-1 but lost the second set 2-6.
According to OHSAA regulations, all sectional tennis matches going to a third set that occur before the quarterfinals result in a match-breaker.
Guiler recovered to shock Teren 10-7 in the tiebreaker.
“I think he was able to muster more energy going into that third set breaker,” noted Bole. “Gabe was determined and I saw the will in his face and it was really something to see for a freshman to be that mature in terms of his match readiness and match toughness.”
Guiler’s magical run continued when he defeated Bay’s David MacFarlane 6-1, 6-1 to earn a district berth.
His bid for a sectional title ended when Pomeranets topped him 6-0, 6-2 in the semifinals.
Guiler then lost to Chagrin Falls’ senior Andrew Zimcosky 6-3, 6-0 in the consolation match resulting in a fourth-place finish.
Orange’s last district qualifier was sophomore Chika Nwaozuzu.
After winning the state doubles title with his brother Josh last year, Nwaozuzu is putting himself in firm contention for a state singles title.
Nwaozuzu swept James Shin from Lake Ridge 6-0, 6-0 and Elyria Catholic’s Gabriel Nagrant 6-0, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
He became a district qualifier when he bested Beachwood’s Nick Harmer 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals.
Nwaozuzu staged the upset of the tournament by defeating the reigning two-time Division II state champion Zimcosky 6-2, 6-3 in the semifinals.
Pomeranets defeated his teammate 6-1, 6-1 in the finals to defend his sectional title.
“It establishes once again that Ben is once again one of the very elite players in the state in each division,” Bole noted. “I think it shows that right now he’s at the top of his game and he really is.”
Zimcosky places third to qualify for districts
It was widely expected the finals would be another showdown between Pomeranets and Zimcosky but the Tigers’ senior didn’t reach the finals and settled for a third-place finish.
“Ultimately it was not Andrew’s day,” said Chagrin Falls’ Coach Leslie Lozon. “I believe everyone’s going to have that once in a while. I’m sad that his day came to an end but he’ll go in as a third seed.”
According to the 13-year coach, Zimcosky’s season is really just beginning.
He suffered a right wrist injury at the beginning of the New Year and was forced to miss the entirety of the regular season.
He then suffered a lower back strain a few weeks before the Chagrin Valley Conference Chagrin Division tournament.
That didn’t stop him from beating Pomeranets at the CVCs to defend his conference championship on May 7.
“He played Ben Pomerenats like a champ,” Lozon said. “That was incredible that he was able to win that match. It says that he is one incredible kid. He’s a great athlete and a great tennis player. For all the cards that went against him he did a great job.”
It earned him the number one seed for the sectional tournament.
Zimcosky got off to a strong start by sweeping Lake Ridge’s Lou Ding 6-0, 6-0 in the second round then overpowered Aiden Stasek from Bay 6-0, 6-0 to advance to the quarterfinals.
He topped Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy’s Seth DeRoo 6-0, 6-1 to earn a berth at the district tournament.
His bid for the sectional title ended when he lost to Nwaozuzu in the semifinals.
“It just wasn’t Andrew’s day,” Lozon said. “He wasn’t moving his feet. He didn’t play well period. It was the unforced errors. I’ve never seen make him so many unforced errors in three years of coaching.”
Zimcosky topped Guiler in the consolation match to take third but he now enters the district tournament by not being the odds-on favorite.
Orange and Zimcosky will compete to become state qualifiers in the Division II district tournament at the Springside Athletic Club in Akron beginning at 9 a.m. on May 20..