PLAIN CITY: Cloverleaf senior Jacob Dunbar and Walsh Jesuit junior Aaron Sandberg are already familiar with each other, having played twice in the past few weeks, and could be on a collision course to face off for a state title.
Dunbar and Sandberg won their two matches on Friday to advance to the Division I state semifinals, to be held at the Ohio State University Outdoor Varsity Tennis Courts today, setting up a possible rematch in the state final with one more win from each.
Friday’s two rounds were moved from Ohio State’s campus to Elysium Tennis Center in Plain City due to weather, though that didn’t take the effect of Mother Nature out of the equation. Although that facility holds eight indoor courts, the four outdoor courts were still used, bringing high winds into play. The Colts’ Dunbar, now 34-0 this season, had to deal with the weather in both his matches. When he faced one direction, he had a strong wind to his back, then switched back and forth.
“The mental side is awful,” he said. “It’s hard both ways. You have to hit out against the wind, you can’t hit with the wind because your ball will hit the back fence. You have to change back and forth, so the adjustment is bad.”
Dunbar easily won his first match 6-0, 6-1, but had to come back against Mason’s Luke Tsai. He trailed 5-3 in the second set but went on to win the next four games.
“I figured out the wind, I guess,” he said. “It was a ‘you can’t do anything’ mentality. A lot of slice, a lot of junk, just trying to get the ball in.”
The Warriors’ Sandberg played his first match outside and his second match indoors, winning the former 6-2, 6-1 and the latter 6-4, 6-4 against Perrysburg’s Jeffrey Schorsch. Sandberg initially trailed big against Schorsch in the first set.
“I really focused a lot more once I was down 4-1, it was almost like a wake-up call,” he said. “I really put my foot down and played some solid tennis, got the ball deep in the court and dictated play.”
Dunbar defeated Sandberg in a Division I district final only a week ago and a sectional match earlier. Although Sandberg took the defeat in both, he handed Dunbar his only set loss of the season, and in the process found a reason for optimism.
“Actually, it gave me a lot of confidence,” Sandberg said. “[Dunbar] blew me off the court the first time we played. Getting a set really prepared me for this week, really made me think I had a shot at it. If anything, it gave me more energy.”
Dunbar will face Gahanna Lincoln senior Canyon Teague in the semifinals — those two will soon be teammates at Richmond, where both have committed to play tennis in college. Sandberg will play Upper Arlington’s Stuart Little. Teague defeated Jackson freshman Joey Thomas, and Little took down Hudson senior Steven Boslet.
Should Dunbar and Sandberg both win, they’ll meet in the final.
Division I doubles
Copley sent two teams to the state tournament but didn’t garner a win on Friday.
The team of senior Austin Aten and freshman Gavin Aten fell to Upper Arlington in straight sets, and the team of junior Andrew Ong and senior Jarad Pennington fell to Mason 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Copley coach Mark Ullman looks at each loss as a learning experience.
“A very good team will get a second or third chance and get it back, so we’ve got to conclude the point,” Ullman said. “And getting used to a high-level of play once again, but they’ll go on and still do very well, I think.”
Hoover’s doubles team of Rob DeMarco and Mike O’Connor, both seniors, pulled off perhaps the best match of the day. After falling in the first set 4-6, Hoover came back to take the second set 6-1 and finally won a marathon third set 7-6, which included an 11-9 tiebreaker.
“That’s the best match we’ve ever won, the best feeling after a match,” O’Connor said. “The way we came back, we just always fought and stuck with it. It’s a great feeling.”
The Hoover team lost in the second round and was eliminated.
Ryan Lewis can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. Read the high school blog at https://ohio.com/preps. Follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/RyanLewisABJ and on Facebook at http://www.facebook.com/sports.abj.