Thursday, May 2, 2019
Ursuline’s boys tennis team is unified and enjoying an undefeated season
By BOB ETTINGER
The Ursuline boys tennis team no longer flies under the radar. With that reality comes a responsibility for the fighting Irish.
“People know who we are now,” Ursuline coach Kent Blacksher said. “We’ve got to live up to that (reputation). We have to do it the right way.”
The right way, according to Blacksher and assistant coach Rick Gaydos, means the Fighting Irish have to remember they wear the name of the school on their shirts and represent more than just themselves.
“Our right way is the team comes before everything else,” Blacksher said. “The way you represent yourself reflects not just on you, but everybody on the team and the school. Be on time. Be respectful. Be composed. That’s what we try and focus on.”
Ursuline has represented itself well, not just in terms of doing it the right way, but also in terms of its results on the court. The Fighting Irish remains unbeaten at 13-0 following a 5-0 victory at Boardman on Wednesday.
“I’m ridiculously proud to see the way they’ve handled themselves,” Blacksher said. “They’re a great group of kids. They’re supportive of each other. The put the team first and try to align their individual goals with the goals of the team. We’ve got great senior leadership. I’m most proud they’ve don it the right way.”
Part of what has fueled the Fighting Irish has been their disappointment in the way the 2018 season ended.
“We had a tough loss in the regional final,” Greg Morgione said. “We’ve carried that as motivation to go back. We have a chance to go back and play that team next week. Our main goal is the Final Four. We bring that motivation to practices and matches.”
Ursuline fell, 3-0, to Gates Mills Hawken in the OTCA Team Tournament a year ago in a regional final. The Fighting Irish get their opportunity to avenge the loss in a regional semifinal at Avalon Athletic Club at Boardman on Monday at 4 p.m.
“We’ve just never been satisfied,” Austin Arafaras said. “Last year, we didn’t like the way things ended. We worked hard to get where we are. We’re trying to do something great, not just for ourselves, but for the school. We’re just shooting for our goal. We want the Final Four. We’re trying to get a banner. That’s all we want. We still have bigger things to accomplish.”
Morgione is 12-1 in singles play, Arafaras is 10-0 at singles and 1-0 at doubles and Luke Tsudis is 8-0 at singles and 3-0 in doubles. The doubles team of Gavin Blacksher and Josh Khavari are 8-0 as a duo and each is 4-0 at singles. Glenn Christopher and Sean O’Connor are 8-0.
With six of the seven starters back from a year ago and with a good number of the Fighting Irish having played together since they were young, they’ve enjoyed the ride.
“It’s been really fun, especially doing it with my teammates,” Tsudis said. “I’m only one person, but I have practically the whole team behind me. It’s been a team effort.”
A shift in approach is on the horizon, however, as the Fighting will compete in the Division II sectional tournament next Wednesday.
Morgione (seeded first) and Arafaras (seeded fourth) will compete in the singles event at Boardman High School beginning at 8 a.m. The doubles teams of Tsudis and O’Connor (seeded first) and Blacksher and Khavari (seeded second) will be at Avalon starting at 8:30 a.m.