Ryan Jorgensen and Evan Bechtel are two of the area s best tennis players.
And they re only sophomores.
Jorgensen is the No. 1 singles player at St. John s Jesuit. Bechtel is the top player at Ottawa Hills.
Both have made strides from where they were at this time a year ago.
Both have developed pretty good all-around games, said St. Francis de Sales coach Mark Faber, who has known both players since before they began playing in high school. Both can hit big serves and both have good forehands. Both are good athletes, but I think Bechtel has a little more and he s got tennis in his blood.
Part of their growth is due to the fact the two spent time over the summer on the same courts. They even played doubles together in summer tournaments.
No doubt, both are the better for their efforts.
My transition game is a lot better than a year ago, Jorgensen said. I m trying to be more aggressive now and I m a lot bigger than I was a year ago and I try to use that to my advantage.
Jorgensen, who won the City League singles championship last year, will look to defend that title in a couple weeks. He s a heavy favorite to repeat, but it s a trip to the state tournament that has him motivated. He advanced to the Division I district last season where he missed out on a trip to state after losing to Wapakoneta s Alex Hager in a semifinal.
Jorgensen is 6-foot-1 after growing three inches since last spring. He also put in work to improve his all-around conditioning by working out with weights under the instruction of a trainer to improve his strength, speed and endurance to help him fight through challenging three-set matches like the one he played against Hager.
I can still remember it now, said Jorgensen, recalling his district semifinal loss. I really think it was good for me. It has helped me mature as a player. I m a more confident player than I was a year ago.
Bechtel reached the Division II state tournament in the singles after a third-place finish at the district.
Bechtel s teammate Joey Aubry also played his way to a state after finishing as district runner-up. The senior hopes to be there again when the state tournament is held May 29-30 in Columbus.
Bechtel began the week with a 7-2 record, while Aubry owns a 3-2 singles record and is 2-0 in doubles.
Ottawa Hills coach Jeff Harst said both players are improved.
Evan is a lot stronger, Harst said. He took a year off from basketball and spent that time working out. He s hitting a heavier ball or a harder ball and I think that was due to the strength training he put in during the offseason.
He s very driven and is very involved in the USTA [United States Tennis Association] events year round. He s been in the big matches and he s been in the state tournament, so he s got a wealth of experience.
Joey is a player we ve moved around a little bit this spring and he s having a good season as well. He puts in a lot of practice time. He is also involved in a lot of USTA events.
Bechtel and Aubry, who lost their opening-round state singles matches last season, have team goals in mind, too.
The Green Bears stiffest competition locally among Division II teams will come from Maumee Valley Country Day, which is led by past state qualifiers Eyad Jaara and Karan Padda.
Jaara and Padda, who reached state as a doubles team the last two seasons, are also aiming to return to Columbus. Like Bechtel and Aubry, Jaara and Padda would also like to lead their team to a berth in the state team tournament held by the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association.
The Hawks have reached the Division II state final four two of the previous three seasons under coach Jarin Jaffee.
I think [they] are hopeful to make it back to state, Jaffee said.
Jorgensen s also hopes the Titans can make a return trip to the Division I state team final four. St. John s finished third last season and is basically the same group.
It includes senior Jacob Kuhn andjunior Josef Pontasch, who were state qualifiers as a doubles team, and returning letter winners Devon Sbrocchi, Connor Majdalani and Madhav Mehta.
Kuhn and Pontasch were district runners-up and lost in their first-round match at state.
I think we re better this year than last year, Jorgensen said. The talent level overall is so much higher on this team compared to last year. Everyone is solid.
Contact Donald Emmons at:email@example.com 419-724-6302