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As the final handful of matches were wrapping up at the City League tennis tournament last night, the seven varsity players from St. John's Jesuit convened on a few vacant courts at the opposite end of the Jermain Park facility.
Putting in after-hours work is nothing out of the ordinary for the Titans, but yesterday - following an ultra comfortable performance - some additional exercise seemed necessary.
Dropping just 10 games in a combined 15 sets, the Titans proved ruthless to their competitors this week, winning all five championships and claiming their sixth consecutive City League championship.
The state's second-ranked team in Division I was never in peril of losing a match, let alone a set, in the two-day tournament, as none of the entrants yielded more than two games in any of their sets.
"Everyone's just been working really hard," said Devon Sbrocchi, a 6-0, 6-0 winner over Central Catholic's Andrew Troy in the No. 2 singles final. "Everyone stays after to practice, even after matches. We're usually out there 'til 6 or 7 p.m."
Combined between regular season league matches and the CL tournament, St. John's scored a maximum 50 points, easily giving coach Jim Davis his sixth title in as many years. St. Francis, on the strength of runner-up finishes at both doubles, scored 38 points to edge Central (36) and Clay (33) for second.
"[St. John's] is an amazing team," St. Francis No. 1 doubles player Anthony Phandihn said. "I'm envious of them to be honest."
Rounding out the field was: Bowsher (26), Whitmer (17), Rogers (16), Start (8), Waite (7), Scott (2), and Libbey (0).
Today and tomorrow, the Titans will begin their march toward more important things when they head over to Shadow Valley for the sectional tournament.
A drastic change for the postseason will include Nos. 1 and 3 singles players Evan Bechtel and Ryan Jorgensen joining at No. 1 doubles, and Sbrocchi and Josef Pontasch at No. 2 doubles.
Pontasch and Connor Majdalandi were 6-1, 6-1 winners over the St. Francis duo of Phandihn and Charles Filipiak at No. 1 doubles, while the Titans' second double entrants - Madhav Mehta and Bobby Adusumilli - stopped the St. Francis team of John Pike and Michael Watrol 6-1, 6-0.
Bechtel, a state qualifier last year while competing for Ottawa Hills, stopped Bowsher's Nick Biniker 6-1, 6-2. Jorgensen, like Sbrocchi, did not surrender a game all tournament, prevailing in the finals over Clay's Lance Okey.
To put into perspective the strength of the Titans, Jorgensen, a junior, won the last two City League titles at No. 1 singles. Now he's at third singles. Additionally, No. 2 doubles player Adusumilli was the team's No. 3 singles player a year ago when the Titans finished third in the state team tournament for the second straight year.
Davis, who led St. John's to the state finals in his first three seasons, says this year's squad is equipped with more depth than any of his others.
"I'm just really proud of the kids," Davis said. "I'm lucky to be their coach."
Sbrocchi said that in Bechtel, the Titans not only got one of the state's top singles players but also a motivational leader.
Emphasizing that he harbors no negative thoughts about his former school, Bechtel said he enrolled at St. John's for the opportunity to train in an environment more conducive to reaching an elite level in the sport. Ideally, he hopes in two weeks it will be he and his junior classmate Jorgensen squaring off against seniors Sbrocchi and Pontasch for the state doubles championship.
"All of the players have come a long way from tryouts," Bechtel said. "Everyone has stepped up to the plate."
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