COLUMBUS - After struggling yesterday during the first set of their Division I state doubles semifinals in Ohio State's Stickney Center, St. John's coach Jim Davis and his duo of senior Jacob Kuhn and junior Josef Pontasch made a strategic change.
When their opponents from Worthington Kilbourne, Kevin Metka and Jonny Price, were serving, both players stayed back. They also switched into the Australian formation, where the server's partner stands in the same court as the server when it was their time to serve.
The move helped Kuhn and Pontasch get back in the match, but it wasn't enough, as the eventual state-champion duo from Kilbourne won 6-1, 6-4.
"I thought they started off pretty strong, and we didn't wake up until the middle of the second set, when we were down 3-0," said Kuhn, who plans to play club tennis at Miami University. "You just wish you could have played well from the beginning. I don't think our volleying today was where it was in the past.
"It's nice to get to a semifinal, but our goal the whole season was to win state this year."
St. John's beat Upper Arlington's James Melvin and William Weldon 6-3, 6-4 to finish third.
In the second set against Kilbourne, St. John's broke serve to cut it to 3-2 and Pontasch held serve to make it 3-3. After Metka held serve for a 4-3 lead, Pontasch had his serve broken.
The Titans still had a chance to tie it at 5-5 with Kuhn serving, but they couldn't find an answer after taking an advantage lead as Kilbourne broke to take the match.
"They just got off to a slow start," Davis said. "The third game of the first set I thought was the big game because if they'd won that it would have been 2-1 instead of 3-0. That was a huge game. In the second set, we made some tactical changes that helped.
"When you get to the semifinals of the state tournament, you're automatically an all-state player, so in my opinion they're all winners."
St. John's will compete in the state coaches' association's team tournament against Cincinnati St. Xavier today, marking the fifth consecutive season the Titans have reached that level.
"(Kilbourne) was really good, but we played better (against Upper Arlington)," Pontasch said. "(Metka) would be tough to hit if he was right-handed, let alone the fact that he's a left-hander. I think the experience will help.
"We're looking forward to the state team tournament. That's the focus for the whole team."