Irish tennis 2nd in state

Mother Nature, she’s a fickle one.

Thunderstorms rolling through Ohio Sunday morning forced the move of the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association Division II semifinals and final from Reynoldsburg to Plain City. Hop on I-270 west and travel for 40 minutes.

Welcome to Elysium Tennis Center Ursuline boys tennis team.

Cap the morning with the power going out in the Plain City venue. Matches were not going to start at 9 a.m.

“It made for a bit of a late start, but incredibly fun, at least for us, historic day,” Ursuline coach Kent Blacksher said.

The Irish took care of business in the first match with No. 2 and 3 singles players, seniors Austin Arfaras and Luke Tsudis, along with the doubles team of Gavin Blacksher and Josh Khavari winning their three matches with ease. Ottawa Hills fell, 3-0.

Not the same luck against the Division II defending champions, Columbus Wellington School, 3-0, in the title game. This is the furthest any Ursuline team has come in this team competition.

It was a day removed from No. 1 singles player and junior Greg Morgione forced to retire from the Ohio High School Athletic Association Division II state title match because of severe cramping after his semifinal in which he had an extended three-set victory over Wellington’s Trevor Ball, one of the best players in the state and beyond.

“My man is an absolute warrior,” Kent Blacksher said of Morgione. “Legitimately, overnight in the hospital in Mason and trucked directly up to Plain City just in time. We were fortunate enough to keep him out of play in the first round by design.

“We could not not at least let him be part of a title match for the second day in a row after losing out for a chance to play for the singles title. He certainly deserved it. He would’ve been more than competitive. He had a good shot at it. I just could not get him in in some capacity. I was glad he got to be a crucial part of it. He certainly deserved it. He was a big reason we were there.”

Ursuline tried to hold its own against a power like Wellington. Morgione really wanted to play singles, but that wasn’t going to happen.

“We were more than holding our own in doubles,” Blacksher said. “With Greg being out (at singles), having to play some doubles because of an injury, we just didn’t have the horses.

“On a normal day, we might have given them all they can handle. It would’ve been more of a 3-2, but doubles didn’t finish in time.”

Ursuline had its seniors, Arfaras and Tsudis as main contributors, along with Gavin Blacksher and Khavari. Those two OHSAA doubles teams each won a match at the tournament in Mason.

“For everybody to then be able to contribute even further the next day on the team stage is hard to even describe, just so remarkably cool,” Kent Blacksher said.

The performance by the Irish has shone a spotlight on the school better known for football and softball than tennis. Ursuline hopes this run changed that perception

“You always hope that’s the case, especially since we have such a competitive northeast Ohio district, especially in D-II,” Blacksher said. “It’s always been the Cleveland-area schools.

“We’ve got some attention now and that’s great. We’ve set a pretty high bar. Now we’ve got to strive to grow the program. That’s going to be our focus the next few years.”

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