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Monday, July 28, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 4/7/2005

Sidelines: A single goal

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Mike O Connell has tasted success in a variety of ways at St. Francis, winning a state doubles title with his cousin and being part of a state championship team. Now, he s ready to go it alone with sights set on yet another state crown.
Mike O Connell has tasted success in a variety of ways at St. Francis, winning a state doubles title with his cousin and being part of a state championship team. Now, he s ready to go it alone with sights set on yet another state crown.
KING / BLADE Enlarge

It s easy to think Mike O Connell has little to play for this spring on the tennis court.

The St. Francis de Sales senior has already accomplished a high school career s worth of success.

He s enjoyed the fruits of being a part of a winning program. He was a key participant as a freshman when the Knights won the state team championship. As a sophomore, O Connell shared the court with cousin James O Connell as they streaked through competition to win the Division I state doubles championship the first in school history. The O Connells were 15-0 in dual matches.

It s gone by really quickly, said Mike O Connell, who has signed a letter-of-intent to play at Ohio State. It doesn t seem like too long ago when I was starting out as a freshman.

O Connell s drive to thrive hasn t waned any with all the winning times.

Playing doubles is fun, but playing singles is all you and if you can do something great it would be really nice to do, O Connell said.

The O Connells chased winning a second state doubles title last spring, but placed third, finishing with a two-year record of 23-1.

James has joined his brother, Kevin, on the tennis team at the University of Dayton.

Mike O Connell will focus this season on singles.

It s a move completely endorsed by St. Francis coach Mark Faber.

He is a very good doubles player, who has a great feel for doubles, Faber said. But he s also very good in singles. We know he can play singles because he wouldn t have been recruited to play tennis by a major Division I program in the country.

O Connell, a 6-foot southpaw, is armed with a hefty serve and moves well around the court.

Yet, it s not his physical strengths that put him among the top of the players Faber has coached.

He s the toughest mentally, Faber said. He doesn t get rattled too often. He s mentally tough and physically strong.

[O Connell] really has a big serve. When he s attacking he s really good because he can put pressure on his opponents. When everything is firing he s very good.

Although his state-tournament experience has been limited to doubles, O Connell has a history of playing well in singles. He has captured three City League singles titles. As a freshman, he topped the City League to win the No. 3 singles title and outdid the No. 2 singles field in his sophomore and junior years.

With a state team title and a state doubles title already accomplished, O Connell is only a state singles title away from completing a high school state tennis trifecta.

I m one away and it s definitely something I ve thought about for a while, O Connell admitted.

It s also something the St. Francis coach prefers to downplay at this early stage in the season. He preaches that taking care of the daily little things will help lead to playing for the big things.

We keep expectations real and keep them simple, Faber said. We set goals. Would he [O Connell] like to be playing in the last match of the season? Absolutely. But we play to go one match at a time.

O Connell missed more than a month of swinging a racket prior to the start of the season after breaking his left thumb in mid-January in a Knights basketball game. His thumb has healed and he doesn t believe the time off has affected his play.

I definitely was worried because I didn t know how bad it was, said O Connell. It healed up well and I m back.

And looking to conquer new territory.

Contact Donald Emmons at:demmons@theblade.com or 419-724-6302.



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