Lakeview trio in tennis district

Lakeview’s Jake McDivitt is one of three Bulldog boys tennis players who will represent the school today in the district tournament at Akron’s Springside Racquet & Fitness Club.

McDivitt, a freshman singles player, will be joined by the doubles team of freshman John Silbaugh and sophomore Anthony Innocenzi. All are seeking berths in the state tournament in Mason next week.

Jake is the younger brother of first-year Bulldogs tennis coach Zach McDivitt, who went to four district tournaments and also qualified for state — alongside his older brother Matt — during his Bulldog career. Their dad, Ted, meanwhile, is Zach’s assistant coach.

“(My dad) enjoys coaching. He’s been coaching various sports for over 30 years,” Zach said. “He’s very intense during practices, while I bring the technical know-how.

“It’s hard to coach (Jake), personally. We have two seperate games, (so) most of my coaching is scouting out his opponent and watching out for their strengths and weaknesses.”

Zach says that while Jake started playing tennis several years ago, it wasn’t until a few years back when Jake finally started taking the game seriously and dedicating himself.

In fact, Zach says that he was always the competitive one growing up, and that Jake has done an exceptional job of developing into a competitive tennis player himself. Jake, a No. 2 -seed out of the Boardman sectional, will take on St. Thomas Aquinas junior Christian Haywood, a No. 3-seed out of the Wooster sectional, in the first round of the district tournament.

Despite his youth, Jake went 14-1 during the regular season. As for his chances at district, it all comes down to being a little less predictable, according to Zach.

“He can hit with any player. He’s a heavy hitter, who probably has the biggest forehand shot in our section,” Zach said. “He can hit with any player in districts, but his point development and building variety in his game (will be key). He needs to drive the ball, slice it, because he relies on his heavy shot (so much).”

Silbaugh and Innocenzi, meanwhile, are underdogs of sorts. The Boardman No. 3-seed will face Wooster No. 2 Jeff Dilyard and David Dilyard of Orrville. Silbaugh and Innocenzi were not regular doubles partners during the season, and they had only played together twice this season, prior to the sectional.

Silbaugh was the team’s No. 2 singles player, and had a record of 11-4 during the season. Innocenzi was the team’s No. 2 doubles team player, and he and his partner went 12-3 on the year.

Surprisingly, it’s the freshman, Silbaugh, who has been most vocal of the two.

“I think John has taken a leadership role, he’s got a very competitive nature to him,” coach McDivitt said. “Anthony understands that, (because) he’s not a kid who took lessons his whole life. He’s just a good athlete who makes good shots.”

In fact, McDivitt went on to say that if it weren’t for his talented No. 1 doubles team of Blake Gould and Steven Pavlik, Innocenzi would already be a No. 1 doubles player. As for districts, McDivitt said that the duo’s draw is a tough road, but he gives the two a fighting chance.

“They need to not play the opponent’s game,” McDivitt said. “They play a very different game — they’ve worked in a lot of different formations, like Australian doubles I-Formation.”