Waite senior Jeff Brown picked up a tennis racket for the first time entering his freshman year.
He had spent most of summers playing baseball, just like his close friends.
But that changed when Waite s former tennis coach Andrew Stotz introduced Brown to the sport.
I found out it was a good sport and I liked playing, said Brown, who has been one of the top singles players in the area this season. I ve put in a lot of practice and a lot of dedication and I have a love for the game.
Brown s hard work led him to a 7-0 record in No. 1 singles matches during the City League dual season.
However, his push to become the first public school player to win the City League tournament s No. 1 singles title since Bowsher s Ted Kaufmann did it in 1977 came up short. St. John s Jesuit freshman Ryan Jorgensen avenged a loss to Brown by posting a 6-1, 6-4 victory in the title match.
It was a big disappointment, Brown said, of the loss to Jorgensen. I d rather had took a loss in the season rather than here.
Yet, losing to Jorgensen is not something Brown planned to brood over for a long period. He, like the rest of the area s top tennis players, is getting things in gear for the sectionals scheduled to get under way today.
Brown finished the regular season with a 15-2 record in singles.
Jorgensen took over at No. 1 singles for St. John s, while Eric North, a senior who spent his junior year playing No. 1 doubles, has played most of the season at No. 2 singles.
Jorgensen has been playing tennis since he was 6 and has steadily grown into his role as the Titans top gun.
I think he s getting used to playing the No. 1 singles position in high school and playing against older boys, Titans coach Jim Davis said. He plays an all-court game. He can come to the net and he can play back. He can mix it up.
North, who was more accustomed to playing doubles during his first three years, handled his new role perhaps better than even he expected. He owns a 19-2 record after winning the CL tournament s No. 2 singles title.
North, who helped win the No. 2 doubles titles in the CL his previous three seasons, doesn t want this season to end anytime soon.
I set a goal for myself to win [the City League] as a team and individually and get down to state as a team and individually, North said.
Devon Sbrocchi, a sophomore, is the No. 3 singles player, while Stephen Smith and Jacob Kuhn have handled No. 1 doubles. Connor Majdalani and Josef Pontasch have worked at No. 2 for St. John s, which is ranked No. 4 in the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division I poll.
All these kids are good, said Davis.
Yet, the City League has not cornered the market on top players this spring.
Eyad Jaara and Karan Padda make up Maumee Valley Country Day s sophomore sensations.
Jaara and Padda are arguably the best 1-2 singles combination around. They made it to the Division II state tournament singles competition a year ago.
Jaara, a defending sectional and district champion, owns a 16-2 singles record this season. Among his victories include wins over Jorgensen (6-4, 6-4) and Ottawa Hills freshman standout Evan Bechtel (4-6, 6-1, 6-2).
He has improved his strategy and toughness this year, Maumee Valley coach Jarin Jaffee said, of Jaara. He has been able to turn it on when he has needed to. His patience is better. He was a little more anxious last year.
Jaara is an all-around better player this season despite taking about three months off from playing last summer and fall because of a back injury.
Jaffee believes the time away from the court may have been a blessing in disguise.
He doesn t take his ability for granted anymore, said Jaffee.
Padda is a defending sectional and district runner-up. With returning state doubles qualifiers, juniors Aaron Delman and Oliver Rorick, the Hawks are ranked eighth in the Division II state poll.
Ottawa Hills is ranked sixth in the same poll and Bechtel, a 6-foot-1 lefty, has played a big part in the Green Bears success. He has posted wins over Brown and North.
He [Bechtel] has made an immediate impact when you can take your No. 1 and make him your No. 2, Ottawa Hills coach Jeff Harst said. That s a good position to be in.
Joey Aubry, a junior, was the Bears No. 1 singles player last spring.
St. Francis de Sales senior Jay Kenney and junior Casey O Connell, as well as Perrysburg senior Andy Gunkler, have also shown themselves as players to be reckoned with this season.
Kenney and O Connell played well enough to lead the Knights to a runner-up finish in the City League.
Gunkler won the Northern Lakes League No. 1 singles championship to guide the Yellow Jackets to a sweep of the league tournament championship matches.
Jaffee thinks the talent pool of solid players in the area is as good as it s been in recent years.
The many underclassmen make for a bright future for local tennis.
There s definitely young talent in northwest Ohio, Jaffee said. There s more good players spread out at more schools and I think that s good to see. There are sure to be some good rivalries in the next couple of years.