COLUMBUS - Josef Pontasch and Jacob Kuhn did not have to look for a motivational tool this season.
After losing in a first-round Division I state doubles match a year ago, the St. John's Jesuit duo came in ready for a big finish at the state tournament Friday in Ohio State's Stickney Center. They started well with a pair of victories to advance to a semifinal Saturday against Cincinnati St. Xavier's Sean Bandy and Brad Sena.
"We've been playing all year long for this," Pontasch said. "Last year we lost in the first round, so we really didn't like that. Anything less than winning this year will be a disappointment."
Pontasch and Kuhn were the only players not from central Ohio to advance to the second day in D-I doubles. Columbus Watterson's Philip Diaz and Chris Diaz and Upper Arlington's James Melvin and William Weldon meet in the other semifinal.
The St. John's duo rallied past Olentangy Liberty's Mitchell Lothes and Alex Solove (4-6, 6-4, 6-0) before beating Massillon Jackson's Louie Thomas and Matt Sloan (6-2, 6-4) Friday.
The Titans also will compete in a state team tournament semifinal Sunday.
"Our serving and returning were on for both of us, and that allowed us to take it to [Jackson's doubles team]," Kuhn said. "We're more of a power team, and definitely our serving was our strength.
"It's nice to be a veteran team coming back here. It allows us not to be OK with just being here. We've been playing together all of this year and planning to get here the whole offseason."
In Division I first-round matches, Findlay's Chikara Oshima lost to Cincinnati St. Xavier's Ryan Bandy 6-0, 6-1, and the doubles team of Connor Majdalani and Gregory Diment of St. John's fell to Upper Arlington's Melvin and Weldon 6-1, 6-3.
Both Eyad Jaara of Maumee Valley Country Day and Evan Bechtel of Ottawa Hills won first-round Division II singles matches but lost in quarterfinals.
Bechtel beat Middletown Fenwick's Patrick Connaughton 6-1, 6-1 in his opening match before falling to Columbus Wellington's Ian Wagner 6-2, 6-0.
An ankle injury forced Bechtel to take a timeout early in the match and hindered his performance against Wagner.
"[The injury] affected my play, but he played really well," Bechtel said. "That's not the reason I lost, though. I think I played well, especially since we were on serve for a while."
Jaara beat Tipp City Tippecanoe's Josh Smedley 6-0, 6-0 before falling to Beachwood's Mark Goldberg 6-2, 6-2 in a quarterfinal.
"He just got every ball back and I couldn't take advantage of his short balls," Jaara said. "I thought I could have played better in my second match. I lost to [Goldberg] in the summer 6-4, 6-4. I wanted to get to the semifinal."
In Division II doubles, Port Clinton's Gabe Costa and Blake Troller beat Pepper Pike Orange's Zach Deutch and Chad Kinsley 6-2, 2-6, 6-2 but fell to Cincinnati Wyoming's Max Hennessy and Mason Bourbon 6-3, 7-6 (10-8) in a quarterfinal. In the match against Wyoming, Costa and Troller nearly rallied from a 5-2 deficit in the second set.
Ottawa Hills' Chris Court and James Mackey lost to Gahanna Columbus Academy's Austin Griffin and Eoghan Bahnson 6-0, 6-0 in a first-round Division II match.