Under extremely hot conditions last SUNDAY at Reynoldsburg HS in the OTCA State Final Four, the Mason boys tennis team won their programs first-ever State Team Title (Ohio Tennis Coaches Association).
The Comets started their pursuit of a state title with a semifinal match against 9th ranked, Toledo Saint John’s Jesuit.
“Going into the match with St. John’s, I thought we were stronger than them, but I was concerned about how much it would take out of us because of the heat,” said Coach Mike Reid.
The Comets didn’t allow fatigue to be much of a factor getting a relatively quick 3-0 decision. The doubles team of freshman, Sam King and junior, Pranav Viswanathan got the Comets on the board with a fast 6-0, 6-0 win at #2 doubles. Junior, Niraj Komatineni won 6-1, 6-3 at #1 singles and, senior Vishnu Srinath, played his best tennis of the season and dispatched his opponent 6-2, 6-0 to secure the win.
As the Comets were beating St. John’s on the south bank of courts, New Albany was blanking Canfield on the north courts. Because of a mold issue on the courts, which made one court too slippery to play on, New Albany did not have to play their number one singles player. The team reached their 3-0 decision over Canfield without their number one player, state champion, Robert Cash, having to exert himself at all.
“We were certainly hoping that Cash, who had won the OHSAA state title the day before over Komatineni, would have to play a long match in the heat," said Reid. "But New Albany got a break and Cash saved some energy going into his rematch with Komatineni."
The final was set. New Albany versus Mason. Mason ranked #1 in the state and New Albany #2.
“I voted New Albany #1 all year,” said Reid. “Their singles line-up was just amazing, and their doubles were pretty good too.”
New Albany’s team featured the #1 singles player in the state in Cash, the number #3 ranked singles player in the state in Joel Jose, playing in the #2 singles spot, and a very talented freshman, Devin Boyer playing in the #3 singles position.
With about an hour to go before the line-ups were to be exchanged (before the final) Reid had some decisions to make..."How could the Comets come up with a line-up to get a victory over the Eagles?"
“We thought the match might come down to #3 singles so our initial plan was to pull Aneesh Zutshi out of #1 doubles and have him battle it out with Boyer," said Reid. “After I saw Shnu play against St. John’s, I changed my mind about the switch. I saw the look in his eye and I knew that he was ready to battle and Zutshi looked a little fatigued from his run in the OHSAA tournament the day before (fourth place in the state doubles tournament). We all decided that we're going to let Shnu do his thing and to keep our doubles as strong as possible with Zutshi and Cepeda staying at #1 doubles.”
All of that strategizing was for naught, however, once the line-ups were exchanged. Instead of having Jose and Boyer playing singles, the Eagles decided to have Cash play singles, but have Jose and Boyer play doubles forming two very strong doubles teams. With Cash being favored at #1 singles over Komatineni, New Albany was hoping that their doubles would each get a win to secure the three points needed for the championship. Reid was a little stunned when he first saw the line-up.
“I was expecting the match to come down to #3 singles, and then I see that they put together these really strong doubles teams. They had Jose at #1 doubles and he had just won the state the day before, and they had his state champion doubles partner playing number two dubs.”
The Comet doubles teams had their work cut out for them. “Our doubles have been strong all year. I knew our kids could play with anybody, they just had to believe in themselves,” said Reid.
The match got started at about 2:00 PM at the hottest part of the day, and Sam King and Pranav jumped out to a big lead at #2 doubles, taking the first set and the crowd was starting to sense that the Comets were not going to back down in doubles. As Komatineni was battling with Cash at #1 singles and dropping the first set, the doubles team of Cepeda and Zutshi pulled off a stunner and won the first set at #1 doubles over the state champ, Jose, and his partner Yan. Meanwhile, on court 3, Shnu was rolling, eventually winning 6-0, 6-0, getting the Comets the first point of the match and putting the pressure on New Albany. At number two singles, senior Shashank Reddy won his first set.
The Comets needed only to win another set on two of the courts for a state title and the pressure was increasing. Cepeda and Zutshi were playing well, defusing Jose’s big groundstrokes with crisp volleys and they jumped out to a 5-3 lead. Senior, Diego Cepeda needed only to hold his serve and the Comets would be up 2-0. After five match points, the duo finally forced a Jose error and took the match 6-4, 6-3. Komatineni was at 2-2 in the second set with Cash and King and Viswanathan had dropped the second set 7-5.
With the Comets up 2-0, everyone’s attention turned to senior, Shashank Reddy at #2 singles. Reddy has won the first set 6-3 and was leading 5-1 at that point, and he broke serve to clinch the match and the state championship with a 6-3, 6-1 victory. The Comets became state champs for the first time in school history.
Mason proved their tennis prowess by winning the Girls and Boys State Team Championship this year, both under head coach Mike Reid. With a host of players returning next season, the Comets can look forward to continued successes.
Congratulations to all the players and coaches!
Komatineni State Runner-Up!
Junior Niraj Komatineni finished as OHSAA state-runnerup at the Individual State Championships at the ATP Linder Center on Saturday. Fans expected a Robert Cash - Niraj Komatineni showdown in the finals as soon as the draws were released, and that turned out to be the case. New Albany's Cash won 6-3, 6-1 over Komatineni and earned an individual state title.
Shashank Reddy and Anish Zuthshi (doubles) fell to the New Albany double team of Devin Boyer and Nathan Jose in the State Semi-finals by scores of 6-4, 6-3.
Congratulations to each of these outstanding Mason tennis players on remarkable seasons in 2018!