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Preppers' new ace trumps Comets' tactics
Preppers' new ace trumps Comets' tactics
By TONY LANGE
Starting its season undefeated with seven wins, the University School tennis team was ranked fifth in the state last week by the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association.
In their match against Solon Friday, the Preppers' lineup got even stronger.
With the addition of Yale Goldberg as University School's new No. 1 singles player, not even a lineup switcheroo by the 12-0 Solon team could deter the Preppers. University School won, 4-1, and improved its record to 8-0, while the Comets dropped to 12-1.
"It was our first match with Yale Goldberg, and, before that, we were still undefeated," University School head coach Lionel Savarin said. "So he's a huge addition to the team, but, even if we didn't have Yale, we're still competitive and still a good team. He makes us a very good team."
For Goldberg, a junior at University School, it was the first high school tennis match he ever played, and he won the first singles court, 6-0, 6-1.
Goldberg is ranked in the top 10 nationally by the U.S. Tennis Association for juniors 16-and-under.
The past two years, he was barred from playing high school tennis because of his participation in USTA tournaments during the high school season. A new rule by the Ohio High School Athletic Association allows Goldberg to compete for his high school team but not as an individual in the sectional, district and state tournaments.
Tinkering their lineup in an attempt to gain an advantage for a team victory, the Comets strayed away from playing University School head on. The Comets took David Shankman and Andrew Branstetter, their No. 1 and No. 3 singles players, and paired them together on the first doubles court.
That bumped No. 2 singles player Brian Yang to match up against Goldberg on the first singles court.
"It's nice to be on a team and to have people behind you cheering for you," Goldberg said of his first-ever high school match. "The atmosphere is really great with a lot of camaraderie."
Before beating Yang, 6-0, 6-1, Goldberg previously competed in the USTA National Spring Championship Easter Bowl held April 8-15 in Rancho Mirage, Calif. There, he was seeded No. 1 in the tournament for 16-and-under singles players but retired to injury during his semifinals match.
Goldberg started playing competitive tennis when he was 5 years old, and it's ingrained in his family with both of his parents having played college tennis and his older brother currently playing at Lehigh University, he said.
"I know I'm coming aboard an undefeated team, but I think they understand that I give them a good shot to win," Goldberg said about joining the Preppers midway through the season. "They don't put any pressure on me or anything, so I feel really comfortable playing school tennis. It's nice to know, if I have a bad match, we can still win as a team."
In the transition, senior Billy Lennon got bumped to the second singles court, where he faced Solon freshman Nam Le.
Le usually plays third singles or second doubles for the Comets, while Lennon has played No. 1 singles for the Preppers since the beginning of his sophomore year. Lennon won, 6-1, 6-0.
"I was surprised, because I was expecting to play Yang," Lennon said. "Shankman is not playing doubles for states, so we didn't quite understand that move. But Yang is a great player, and Nam is a good player as well. You have to treat everyone the same, so nothing really changed."
"I haven't played No. 2 singles since freshman year, so our lineup is pretty strong right now," Lennon said. "Even though I'm playing the second singles court now, nothing is really different. The work ethic is still the same. It's great to have a guy like Yale at the top of the lineup to bump everyone down a spot, but my goal is still set to do well at the state tournament."
On the third singles court, University School's former No. 2 player, Robby Stroup, matched up against Solon's Rushil Shah, who usually plays on the second doubles court for the Comets.
Stroup, a freshman, won, 6-2, 6-0, to complete the Preppers' singles court sweep.
"It was nice to get the win today, because I've had a couple of rusty matches prior to this," Stroup said. "It's kind of strange to play in a high position on the team when I'm younger than most of the guys on the team. I feel like I'm accepted, though, so I feel kind of comfortable in that position."
On the first doubles court, Shankman and Branstetter battled out a 6-3, 6-3 triumph over University School's Daniel Huang and Lukas Zalesky.
Savarin said he thought for sure Solon would keep Shankman playing singles.
"I think it would have been good for David Shankman, who is their regular No. 1, to see how he plays against Yale," Savarin said. "It's always good to see how you play against a top guy. I'm still very happy that my doubles team got to have a good match."
On the second doubles court, University School's Dirk Sims and Conner O'Hearn beat Solon's Eric Goldberg and Dillon O'Brien, 6-4, 6-7 and 1-0 (10-7) in an induced tie-breaker because of time constraints.
Up next, University School hosts St. Edward at 4:30 p.m. May 3, while Solon will compete in its Northeast Ohio Conference championship at 9 a.m. May 4 at Brush High School.
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