Irish gets redemption

Ursuline beats Lakeview in OTCA regional final, heads to D-II state

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Ursuline’s Greg Morgione, center, gets a hug from a couple of teammates after the Irish beat Lakeview in the OTCA Northeast Ohio Regional final in Youngstown.

YOUNGSTOWN — Greg Morgione kept trading forehands with Jake McDivitt as about 25 of the 75 people lining the north end of Volney Rogers Courts migrated to watch two of the best singles players northeast Ohio has to offer.

Morgione won his first set and desperately wanted the second.

The Ursuline High School junior boys tennis player remembered the enclosed white tennis dome at Squaw Creek Country Club. The pain was still vivid as he lost to a Hawken player in the final match as the Irish lost last year’s Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Northeast Regional final.

He and his teammates vowed that pain would not befall his team once again. It would be someone else’s misery.

Tuesday, nestled between the opening of trees inside Mill Creek Park, Ursuline overcame this barrier with a 3-0 win over Lakeview in the Division II OTCA Regional Final battle.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Lakeview’s John Silbaugh returns a ball during Tuesday’s match against Ursuline.

Soon after shaking McDivitt’s hand, Morgione’s teammates entered the gate and bombarded him, emotion rarely shown in this sport, reserved for this team format.

Parents, friends and other supporters rallied around the second of five courts, which ironically had green on the outskirts of each blue play surface — dominant colors of the two schools.

Even the two doubles matches dropped what they were doing as the match ended to join the celebration or join their respective team. First one to three wins.

“Me being the point that lost it last year, it was really great to be on the complete opposite end of the spectrum there in closing it out myself,” said Morgione, whose team atoned for its loss to Hawken 3-1 in the previous round. “We’re not done yet. We still have two more.”

Both Lakeview and Ursuline are sending representatives to Friday’s Division II Akron District in hopes of making the Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament. Ursuline has its spot in the OTCA state semifinals on May 26 at The Ohio State University against an opponent to be named from one of the three other regional finals. The state semifinals and finals are on that day.

Tribune Chronicle / John Vargo Ursuline's Luke Tsudis makes a return during his singles match against Lakeview.

Ursuline seniors Luke Tsudis and Austin Arfaras, who won their previous matches in straight sets, began to lead the charge toward Morgione.

The Ursuline parents were part of the celebration, bringing out their smartphones and cameras, lining up their boys for a team picture. Someone brought balloons on the court and started singing happy birthday to sophomore doubles player Gavin Blacksher, son of Ursuline coach Kent Blacksher.

It was a celebration that was a year in the making, knowing each match was leading up to this moment. Now, it doesn’t stop as they head to state.

“It was one of the dreams we had going into this year,” Arfaras said. “We had this little board and these goals. Now they’re coming true. We’re making check marks after check marks after check marks”

The Lakeview tennis team walked off the court as McDivitt was with his coach Ryan Trapp was talking to him, encouraging him after all the good things this Bulldogs team has done this season.

Getting to this point was beyond comprehension at the season’s start.

“The final eight in the state,” Trapp said. “I think if you took that at the beginning of the year and asked them how do you think you are, they probably wouldn’t think final eight was possible. They have to be really happy with themselves for the fact that we went.”

Trapp hopes he can promote this success within the Cortland community, showing other Lakeview prospective middle schoolers and other high school students within the Bulldogs’ walls that tennis is a sport to play.

“Hoping they see tennis is a very viable sport that you get a lot of recognition from in high school,” Trapp said. “Hoping they see that going forward.”

As for the Irish, if they send players to the state tournament in Mason (outside Cincinnati), Ursuline will travel back up I-71 with other aspirations in this dream season.

Canfield made it to OTCA state last year in Division I.

“These kids, especially our seniors, have put a lot of blood, sweat and tears into this program,” Blacksher said. “For them to pay off in their senior season, that’s all you can ask for.”

For Morgione, the ending couldn’t have worked out better.

“It couldn’t have been a better script,” Blacksher said. “I’m so happy for him. Even though it wasn’t his fault in any capacity, he seemed to take last year’s loss to heart like we all did.

“This is perfect for him. Great redemption. Love it.”

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