CANTON — Vermilion senior Chaz Hansen finally got one monkey off his back, winning a first-round match at the Division II district tennis tournament at Harvard Park on Friday morning.
However, he fell one match short of his ultimate goal — a berth in the state tournament.
Hansen was the only one of the four Lorain County players/teams competing at the Canton district to win a first-round match, defeating Canton Central Catholic’s Alec Bird 6-1, 6-2. Bird defeated Hansen 6-4, 6-2 in the first round of last season’s district tournament.
Warren JFK’s Jad Abdul-Aal ended Hansen’s high school career with a 6-0, 6-1 loss in the quarterfinals.
Lorain County hasn’t had a Division II state qualifier since 2001, when Elyria Catholic’s Borko Tesic competed in singles and the Panthers doubles team of Mike Herrick and Jake Dowdell took third. Including Division I, Lorain County hasn’t had a state qualifier since 2007.
Hansen was in good spirits following the loss.
“He’s a good player,” Hansen said. “It was the luck of the draw, I guess. There wasn’t much I could do. He killed me. Not too many people can make it to state, so to be one match away is pretty unbelievable.”
Abdul-Aal, the Boardman sectional runner-up, won 10 straight games before Hansen finally won one in the second set. By that point, Hansen was just trying to have fun.
“He had an answer for everything and I was trying different things, but nothing seemed to work,” Hansen said. “I’m just glad I got one game out of it. You just try to have fun and make the best of it.”
Senior Kevin Cole and sophomore Shane Spencer gave the Sailors their first doubles district qualifier in school history. But Perry’s Alex Guthrie and Dan Walker eliminated the pair with a 6-3, 6-0 win.
Cole and Spencer opened a 3-0 lead, but then dropped 12 straight games to the Brush sectional No. 3 seed. The Perry duo joined the three other doubles teams from the Brush sectional in today’s semifinals.
“We started off hot, but they got warmed up a little bit and moved around a bit better than we did,” Cole said. “Playing at districts was everything and more. It’s a certain high note, for sure. I never even got past the first round of sectionals my first three years. But I got a good partner and we got a decent draw at sectionals, so to end my career at districts is something spectacular.”
Added Spencer: “They were a good team. They earned it. The wind was the most game-changing thing, but we were both affected by it, so can’t say it was a factor. I will try to come back and make it to state over the next two years.”
Hansen said he was thrilled to have his teammates and friends competing at the district level along with him.
“That was huge,” he said. “Having Kevin and Shane down here representing Vermilion was unbelievable. That’s a great way to end it. Shane’s going to take the reins next year and hopefully he can continue what we all started.
“Me and the other seven seniors have been together since our freshman year, working with each other and hanging out with each other. It’s been a blast, that’s all I can say. All the accolades I’ve gotten have been great, but I couldn’t have done it without them. The real bummer is that it’s all over.”
Vermilion coach Joe Tellier said there weren’t enough words to describe what Hansen has meant to the Sailors tennis program.
“He’s one of the most dedicated tennis players in the entire area,” he said. “He worked hard all season and worked hard in the offseason. He’s had one heck of a career — that’s what I told him — and it was an honor to coach him.”
Hansen will attend Ohio State on an academic scholarship and plans on competing for their club tennis team.
The two Lake Ridge singles qualifiers — juniors Caleb Mayer and Roger Peckham — each had their district stays end after just one match for the second consecutive year.
Mayer, making his third district trip in as many years, was defeated 6-3, 6-0 by Cortland Lakeview’s Aaron Paczak.
“It’s always a great experience coming down here,” Mayer said. “Last year, I lost even worse than this, so I can be proud I showed a little more improvement than the time before. Hopefully, I can get back here for a fourth time next year and do a bit better down here.
“He was attacking my backhand a lot, which has been a problem for me. It was pretty close in the first set, though. But after I lost that, I got pretty discouraged and things fell apart quickly.”
Peckham, who did not speak to reporters, was defeated 6-0, 6-1 by Poland’s Garrett Gardner, who became a state qualifier by reaching today’s semifinals.
Lake Ridge coach Rich Robbins was proud of his juniors.
“I thought both Caleb and Roger had the potential to do some damage down here,” he said. “Roger was facing a No. 1 seed, and that’s always tough. I think Caleb could have won, but his game abandoned him today and I think he abandoned some of the strategies that had been tried and true for him this year and had gotten him to this point.
“We’ve got one more year of experience playing at this level. They’ll both be seniors next year, and I know Caleb’s going to play in a lot of tournaments this summer. I told Roger he had better get into some tournaments as well. Getting that match play is so important if you want to do well at this level.”
Robbins said he has no plans to try to pair Mayer and Peckham together as seniors for a possible postseason run as a doubles team.
“They’re strictly singles guys all the way,” he said. “I don’t think either one of them like doubles. My philosophy is, if you play singles in the regular season, you play singles in the postseason.
“We’re going to try to beef up our schedule next year to get Caleb and Roger some tough match play. I think they can both get back to districts next year, but I know they’ll both be shooting for higher than that.”
The Rocky River sectional was completely shut out of state this year. Along with Hansen, Rocky River senior Henry Grierson reached the quarterfinals. But Grierson was defeated 6-3, 7-6 (3) by Gilmour Academy’s Weston Noall — the Brush sectional champion.
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.