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Woodridge boys snag first PTC Title

By JONAH ROSENBLUM Staff Writer Published: May 7, 2017 12:00 AM
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RAVENNA -- It's been a banner year for Woodridge High School in just about every boys sport.

On May 3 at Ravenna, the Bulldog boys tennis squad added its name to an historic school year for Woodridge

In what turned into an all-Summit County battle at the Portage Trail Conference boys tennis tournament, Woodridge prevailed over Norton, thanks once more to its doubles teams.

The same tandems that led the Bulldogs to a 12-0 regular-season conference record were golden.

Vince LoPrinzi and Christopher Mally took a spell-binding No. 1 doubles title match, 6-1, 3-6, 7-6, taking the third-set tiebreaker, 9-7.

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Nick LoPrinzi and Gustavo Meireles made it a doubles sweep, giving Woodridge a 45-42 victory over Norton to win the school's first-ever PTC tennis title.

"There are really no words," Mally said. "It's unreal -- first PTC championship in Woodridge history. For us to be a part of that and take it as close as it was is unreal."

Cloverleaf, Norton and Woodridge combined for the top three spots in every category -- No. 1 singles, No. 2 singles, No. 3 singles, No. 1 doubles and No. 2 doubles. The Bulldogs and Panthers accounted for nine of 10 finalists, with the only exception being Cloverleaf's Austin Hanna, who took No. 1 singles title.

Crestwood's JT Vaughan was Portage County's top finisher, placing fourth in No. 1 singles.

The Crestwood senior thrived on consistency, hitting one ball back after another, while keeping a remarkably calm demeanor.

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Ravenna's Andrew Spiker also placed fourth -- in No. 2 singles. The Ravens junior looked impressive in a smooth 6-0, 6-2 first-round victory. With a short, compact swing, he ended the match by rattling off four straight games.

"His forehand was really good today," Ravens coach Brittney O'Donnell said.

Down 30-15 tied at two games apiece, Spiker landed two punishing forehands to draw even, then leading 3-2, hit several approach shots, grazing the back like twice, to go up 4-2.

"He knew he could beat that kid," O'Donnell said. "It was a mental thing to be able to know he could come back."

After falling to eventual champion Tanner Laughorn of Woodridge in the semis, his third-place matchup proved difficult as well. The powerful strokes that landed for winners in the first round were returned by Cloverleaf's Frank English.

The drama and emotion behind Vince LoPrinzi and Mally's victory was unmatched. After winning the first set, 6-1, the pair dropped the second set, 6-3, and saw a late lead crumble away in the third and deciding set.

"It's a roller coaster for sure," Mally said. "We didn't want it to end up like that, I can tell you that, 100 times out of 100, we would want to end that in two sets."

Up 5-4 and 6-5 in the third, the Bulldogs couldn't quite close out the Panthers in regulation, with the frustration evident on Mally's anguished visage. LoPrinzi said that he had struggled in prior clutch situations, which was hard to believe given what he pulled off Tuesday.

"Coming into today, I've been really poor in clutch moments. I've been really bad in mental tennis," LoPrinzi said. "I felt comfortable (today). I never felt like we were going to lose the match. I felt like the nerves should have been there, but they really weren't, and it was surprising and awesome to have that happen."

Down 4-2 in a sloppy-starting, third-set tiebreaker, LoPrinzi and Mally roared back to knot the score at five, and with the score tied at six, LoPrinzi pulled off a remarkable diving save to keep the point alive. He said he didn't think he was going to get to the ball, but he knew he didn't want to face match point, so LoPrinzi gave it everything he had.

"He's the greatest partner I've ever played with," Mally said with a bloodied LoPrinzi standing beside him. "We always poke at him for not being the most athletic guy on the team, but as soon as they hit that volley, I was like my long legs can't get there, let's see what Vince can do, and holy moly, I've never seen him do anything like that in his life and I don't think I ever will again."

LoPrinzi's dive complete, Mally followed with a remarkable lunging volley and a sharp burst to get back on a lob, with Woodridgepulling off the miracle point to take a 7-6 lead.

"It was the craziest Woodridge tennis point in history, hands down," Mally said.

Mally, the LoPrinzi brothers, Laughorn and Meireles all were named first-team all-PTC. Senior Kyle Ackerman, who took third place at first singles, junior Devin O'Laughlin, who finished second at second singles, each were named second-team all-PTC.

Email: mleonard@recordpub.com

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