Lex sweeps OCC tournament to prepare for playoffs

MOUNT VERNON — His blonde locks flowing beneath a retro white headband, Lexington sophomore Karl Etzel used this spring to perfect Swedish tennis icon Bjorn Borg’s Seventies look. (Goog it, kids.)

He even broke double bracelets, Borg-style, on occasion.

If it was Etzel’s intention to faithfully emulate Iceborg’s surgical precision with Friday’s performance, well, he pulled off that too, winning No. two tournament games as Lex won his fourth straight Ohio Cardinal Conference championship at Mount Vernon Nazarene.

Etzel was the only Lex player to walk away completely unscathed, but the Minutemen surrendered just eight games in 10 games sweeping all five courts following a perfect 6-0 double season in OCC play.

When you look good, you play good, don’t you, Karl?

“Coach Wooster told me I looked like Borg,” Etzel said after adding that title to the one he won in singles No. 2 last year. “I bought (the headband) at Walmart for a dodgeball tournament at my church and now I wear it for games. At first I did it as a joke, but now I think it has the looking sick.

As in awesome, amazing, awesome, all the right adjectives to describe this OCC title run Lex has been on since 2018, interrupted only by the season canceled by COVID 2020.

Lexington's Karl Etzel helped his team sweep the OCC tennis tournament on Thursday.

Tommy Secrist tore a hole in his shoe – it even went through his sock – but repeated as OCC Player of the Year, winning his second consecutive No. 1 singles title by beating Wooster’s Mark Wood 6-2 , 6-1. The Lex senior also won an OCC title at No. 3 in singles as a rookie.

“It’s a nice goodbye,” he said as graduation approached, “especially since I lost my sophomore year (due to the pandemic).”

After missing out on a singles victory to qualify for the OHSAA Individual State Tournament last season, Secrist will play postseason doubles for the first time, teaming with Etzel.

They’re ranked No. 1 in next week’s Shelby Section, with senior teammates Ryan Mecurio and Ross Drlik — last year’s district champions and fourth in the state — ranked No. 2.

“I’m so tired of playing singles; I’m just exhausted,” Secrist said. “It’s not easy to take it on the chin at (number) one against (Division I) schools all the time.”

In their limited time as a tandem, Secrist and Etzel defeated a state-ranked Columbus Bexley team and a duo from Columbus Academy who are ranked No. 1 in their section. This latest win came at the recent Lexington Invitational.

“Our styles complement each other, I guess,” Etzel said. “This year, I’ve been pretty good at net. It’s something I really had to work on last year, improve with the volleys. It worked very well this year.

“Tommy is really good from the baseline and then he progresses.”

Etzel did it in doubles last year with compatriot Ethan Remy, reaching the quarterfinals for second-team All-Ohio honors. Remy, who won No. 2 in singles on Friday after winning No. 3 last year, is seeded No. 1 in singles for next week’s sections, along with his usual doubles partners Jake Chilcote and Dylan Catanese, seeds 2 and 3, respectively, in singles.

“Ethan and I have played together forever, in doubles tournaments and all that. He’s consistent and Tommy likes to hit the ball hard,” Etzel said of trying to win All-Ohio in doubles for the second time, with a new partner. “Ethan is really ‘cool’ in games and Tommy really likes getting into games.”

Etzel admitted to taking on their personalities, according to his partner.

“When I play with Tommy, I get excited,” he said, “and when I play with Ethan, I’m cooler…just earn the point and move on to the next one.”

Lexington's Tommy Secrist was named OCC Tennis Player of the Year after winning his first singles on Thursday.

Last year’s road to All-Ohio honors for the first time was a wild one for Mecurio and Drlik. They lost to Remy and Etzel in the Section Finals, but turned around the following week to avenge that loss in the District Finals en route to qualifying for Day Two of the State Tournament.

Mecurio and Drlik prepared for this postseason by winning a second straight OCC title at No. 1 in doubles. It was the third championship title overall at this location for Mecurio, who won with freshman Brent Webster.

He knows that Secrist and Etzel will present the ultimate challenge.

“They’re both really hard hitters,” Mecurio said, “and I think they’ll bring more intensity than when it was Karl and Ethan.

“You want to get the No. 1 seed. Going to the districts doesn’t matter as much, but I’m going to say it’s really important to be the No. 1 seed. Of course, we want to win both (sections and districts), but ultimately we want to qualify for every round.

Catanese and Owan Gongwer are the two freshmen impacting a state-ranked Lex team with eight very good players to occupy just seven spots.

For most of the season, Catanese was paired with Chilcote, a junior, at double No. 2, but with Gongwer the odd man at sections, coach Ron Schaub gave him the opportunity to play double No. ° 2 Friday.

Gongwer and Chilcote lost just one game in their two matches, beating Wooster’s Jared Pennell and John Sibilia 6-1, 6-0 in the final.

How deep is this Lex list? Gongwer would play No. 1 singles for any other team in the league.

“It was nice to play OCC,” he said. “It was my first season so I didn’t know what to expect, but I played against some of these teams during the season so I knew how they played.

“Next year I will have more opportunities. We will lose three of our very good players (Secrist, Mecurio, Drlik), but we will eventually gain some new ones. Playing with this team makes you better and better, especially against seniors and juniors. They’ve played more and most of them are better than you, so it just makes you better.

Gongwer knows he must remain vigilant as his name could be called at any time.

Lexington's Ethan Remy helped his team sweep the OCC tennis tournament on Thursday.

“Ron does the lineups at the last second, so you always have to be prepared,” he said. “We try to play a lot of real games (in training) to prepare ourselves wherever we are placed. We each play a lot of singles and doubles simply because our roster mixes up every game. »

With dueling and the tournament part of the equation, Lex finished atop the OCC with 59 points. Wooster was second (43), followed by Ashland (23), West Holmes (22), Mount Vernon (13.5), Mansfield Senior (10) and Madison (2).

Lex and Wooster met in the tournament final on four of the five courts, except singles No. 3, where Etzel beat West Holmes’ Brody Schaad 6-0, 6-0.

Good performance of Tyger exchange students

Ashland’s No. 1 doubles team of Seth Karnosh and Caedon Blough and No. 2 duo of Landon Davis and Drew Friesen both finished third, while Mansfield Senior exchange students Diego Tolivia and Paul Demellier finished fourth at No. 1 and 2 in singles, respectively.

The consolation finals were all first at eight games to two, with Tolivia losing 8-3 to West Holmes’ Hunter Ellis and Demellier by the same scoreline to Ashland’s Ben Sinchock.

“I went and got them,” Tyger’s coach Terra Beard said of his top two players. “I heard they were playing tennis, but they didn’t come out for the team at first.”

They were both already on a running track when Beard convinced them to play tennis at the same time. They both run distance races and train mostly with the track team, showing up for tennis when there is a match.

Diego Tolivia

Demellier, from France, hadn’t played tennis for two years when he arrived here and Tolivia, from Switzerland, was coming off a year-long layoff.

“I guess it’s like riding a bike,” Beard said with a laugh.

Tolivia’s mother is Swiss and his father is Spanish, so he makes both of his parents happy by being fans of tennis greats Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal.

“I just like the way they play,” he said. “They are good and nice on the pitch.”

Tolivia said her tennis background made it easy for her to return to play after a long break.

“I played four hours a week for three years and before that I played an hour a week for five years,” he said. “I didn’t think I was going to play tennis here because I was thinking about the track. And now I do both.

“: I was hoping to be able to finish third because the player I played (Ellis) I beat in the (double) encounter. But it’s like that. »

Demellier’s first love is rugby. He is part of a very good club team in France.

“We play a lot of tournaments,” he said. “I played rugby and tennis. It was too much for me. I quit tennis and focused on rugby. I’m better at rugby now.

“My level (of tennis ability) was not very good when I came here, so I trained and practiced. It’s better now.”

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