Bulldogs, Ursuline vie for team state berth

BOARDMAN — Lakeview’s boys tennis team has been one of the better teams in the Mahoning Valley.

First-year coach Ryan Trapp wanted these Bulldogs to know they have more talent, enough to beat teams which were thought to be out of their comfort zone.

Lakeview entered the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association team tournament and beat Orange and Cuyahoga Valley Christian Academy, 3-2, in its first two matchups ? leading to the Division II Northeast Ohio Regional final.

The Bulldogs travel Tuesday to the Volney Rogers Tennis Courts inside Mill Creek Park to take on host Ursuline, starting at 4 p.m. The winner heads to Columbus for the state final four.

“In both matches our players asked, ‘Are we going to get killed?’ “ Trapp said. “I said, ‘You guys are just as good as these teams.’ We’re going to end with a local team, obviously, in Ursuline. We’ll see what happens.

“To have two teams have that have the ability and a chance to go to state is great for this area.”

The team tournament has a much different flavor than you’d get in a regular-season match-up. Teams have a lot riding on each match, survive and advance.

Ursuline faced Hawken last year at Squaw Creek’s indoor facility, losing to the Hawks. The Irish, ranked fourth this year in the OTCA Division II boys poll, handled Hawken in their last round, 3-1. The first team to three wins automatically wins, even if all five matches have not been played, which explains the 3-1 score.

Ursuline handled Gilmour Academy in its first match, 5-0.

“The attitudes of the players are more composed, focused and they know what’s on the line,” Ursuline coach Kent Blacksher said. “The fans do as well. They tend to be a little more vocal, a little more boisterous in some capacities, respectful of course.”

The Irish have the same respect for Lakeview, knowing how difficult it will be to beat the Bulldogs on Tuesday. Lakeview’s tennis program began to rise to fame under former coach Stephanie Hickey.

“Stephanie ran such a great program,” Blacksher said. “Ryan has picked up the ball and run with it as well. You can see it. Ryan is an icon in the area, just a dynamic force on the tennis court. He has that demeanor I really enjoy, very calm, very composed, but lethal. His players have that as well.

“They’re great, respectful kids, but they’re fierce competitors. Up and down their lineup, there’s great depth. They’re a darn, good team.”

It’s a nerve-wracking experience for Trapp, wanting his team to win and show the hard work they’ve put in all season. Winning Tuesday is not going to be easy for Lakeview.

“They have a lot of good players,” he said. “They’re deeper than we are. We have to get the right lineup. We have to play our best match to beat them.”

Blacksher said he remembers when his team lost to Hawken last season. His seniors started to focus on what’s at stake. This Ursuline team is well aware what’s going on Tuesday.

“Guys like to have a good time and are relaxed, but in their mind’s eye they know it’s a big one,” Blacksher said. “We’re trying to build something here as well, like Lakeview is, and this would be a big step. We continue to push that on the underclassmen. Keep your eye on the prize-type mentality.

“We know these guys well. They know us well. It’s going to be a matter to see who has the better day.”