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Published: Thursday, 5/3/2012

SIDELINES TENNIS

Titans tennis reloads in quest for state team title again

BY DONALD EMMONS
BLADE SPORTS WRITER
Bobby Adusumilli is the No. 1 singles player for St. John's, which is ranked No. 5 in Ohio in Division I. The senior played doubles last year, when the Titans captured a state team title. Bobby Adusumilli is the No. 1 singles player for St. John's, which is ranked No. 5 in Ohio in Division I. The senior played doubles last year, when the Titans captured a state team title.
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The lineup looks very little like last season when St. John's Jesuit captured the Ohio Tennis Coaches' Association's team championship.

The most noticeable change for the Titans is not having standout singles player Evan Bechtel in the No. 1 spot. Bechtel, who won the state singles championship, graduated and is playing for Ohio State University.

But that doesn't mean the Titans have lowered their goals in coach Jim Davis' eighth season.

St. John's has reached at least the state semifinals of the team tournament every year during Davis' tenure.

Winning the first-ever Three Rivers Athletic Conference championship and pursuing a second straight state team title are high on the to-do list.

"The kids set the bar pretty high," Davis said. "Their goals were they wanted to be the first team to win the new TRAC and they wanted to get to state and try to win again. "Luckily, so far, they're right on track."

The Titans, who are ranked No. 5 in the Ohio Tennis Coaches' Association Division I poll, began the week with a 15-2 team record, including a 7-0 record against TRAC opponents.

The only losses have come against Upper Arlington, ranked No. 2 in D-I, and Cincinnati Sycamore, ranked No. 4. The Titans suffered 3-2 defeats in both encounters.

Among their triumphs is an impressive showing a few weeks ago in Cleveland, when the Titans took first place at the St. Edward Invitational. Coming through to win one of the highly regarded regular-season tournaments can serve well in the long run, Davis said.

Ryan Brown, a sophomore, left, and Madhav Mehta, a senior,
are 17-1 this season as the No. 1 doubles team for the Titans. Ryan Brown, a sophomore, left, and Madhav Mehta, a senior, are 17-1 this season as the No. 1 doubles team for the Titans.
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"A lot of good teams were there, and what it does is give your younger guys a great deal of confidence," Davis said. "Obviously, it gives our older guys, who have had to play up in the lineup this year, confidence as well."

Filling the void left by Bechtel as the No. 1 singles player is senior Bobby Adusumilli, who was the No. 3 player last season. He began the week with a 10-8 record.

"I think he's been a great leader," Davis said. "What is interesting is the matches that he's lost, except for one, have gone three sets.

"Bobby has done great. I have no complaints. He's been super."

Playing in the top singles spot is a role and an opportunity Adusumilli doesn't take lightly. He's proud about having the chance in his final year to represent the Titans in that leading role.

Yet Adusumilli recognizes being No. 1 comes with plenty of expectations and pressure.

"It's a big accomplishment and it's been a goal of mine and I've been happy to achieve it," Adusumilli said. "It's been pretty competitive playing No. 1 and it's been an adjustment. My goal is to do my part to help the team win."

Kevin Brown, a talented freshman who has shown plenty of promise, has come in and played well at No. 2 singles. He owns a 16-2 record.

Senior Spencer Crawford, who was a contributing member of last year's team, has also been solid as the No. 3 singles player with a 16-3 record.

St. John's No. 1 doubles tandem of Madhav Mehta, a senior, and Ryan Brown (Kevin's brother), a sophomore, are off to a 17-1 start.

Davis has utilized two different doubles teams in the No. 2 doubles slot to combine for a 20-1 showing.

Kevin Brown, a freshman, has a 16-2 record at the No. 2 singles spot for St. John's. The Titans took first place at the St. Edward Invitational in Cleveland, which draws some of the state's best teams. Kevin Brown, a freshman, has a 16-2 record at the No. 2 singles spot for St. John's. The Titans took first place at the St. Edward Invitational in Cleveland, which draws some of the state's best teams.
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Caleb Mickler, a junior, and Adam Zychowicz, a freshman, own a 13-1 record, and Trevor Majdalani, a freshman, and Max Rectenwald, a senior, are 7-0.

Perhaps not as dominant a team as a whole compared to last year's, the Titans consider themselves to be a much deeper overall.

"This team, obviously, doesn't have that Evan Bechtel like we had last year," Mehta said. "But we have some great new young guys. Kevin Brown has done an extraordinary job this year as a freshman at second singles. He's been winning some big matches for us.

"Our team overall has just been hard-working and expects the best."

The Titans may be ranked No. 5, but it's not the position where they want to appear at the end of the season.

They're thinking a repeat as state champions is certainly possible.

"We're right there," Davis said. "If we keep doing well and win our next two matches and get to state, we might have a shot to do it again."

Contact Donald Emmons at: demmons@theblade.com, 419-724-6302 or on Twitter @DemmonsBlade.



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