November 23, 2014

Elyria
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High school boys tennis: Vermilion’s Hansen looking for trip to state

To say Chaz Hansen’s three years of tennis at Vermilion High School have been solid would be an understatement.

West Shore Conference champion? Check.

WSC Most Valuable Player? Check.

Lorain County Athletic Administrators Association Tournament champion? Check.

Division II district tournament qualifier? Two checks.

But there are still a couple things Hansen hasn’t accomplished yet — winning a sectional championship and making it to the Division II state tournament.

As a sophomore and junior, Hansen qualified for the district tournament at Canton’s Weis Park, only to be eliminated in the first round each time.

Those two experiences have motivated him for his senior season.

“Although I made it to districts the last two years, which is a great accomplishment, I have bigger goals for this year,” he said.

“My goal this year is to get past districts and make one last push for state. That’s the major goal of mine this year.

“Being at districts the last two years, where it’s win-or-go-home, has really opened my eyes. It’s intense pressure playing at that level and I’ve been through it twice. I believe that going down there a third time, I’ll be more prepared for what it takes to be one of the four state qualifiers.”

Hansen went 22-0 during the regular season last year and actually won 25 matches in a row before falling to his friend and rival Henry Grierson of Rocky River in three sets in the sectional championship at Tri-City Park. Hansen then fell to Canton Central Catholic freshman Alec Bird, 6-4, 6-2, in the first round of the district tournament.

If Hansen gets over the hump this year, he’d be the first Division II state qualifier from Lorain County since Elyria Catholic’s Mike Herrick and Jake Dowdell placed third in doubles in 2001. He’d also be Vermilion’s first state qualifier in tennis.

In order to help Hansen prepare for the level of competition he’s likely to face at districts, Sailors coach Joe Tellier beefed up his schedule.

Along with playing the top teams in the WSC — Rocky River (Grierson) and Avon (with top-ranked freshman Nico Mostardi) — Vermilion will play Lake Ridge twice (fellow two-time district qualifier Caleb Mayer), Perkins (two-time district and former state qualifier Manickam Manickam) and Beachwood in non-conference action.

“We had a very good record (11-2) and he finished 25-2, which was also great, but the competition he faced last year and that we faced last year doesn’t compare to this year,” Tellier said. “Even if he doesn’t have the same win-loss record, it will be great preparation for Canton and Columbus. If you look at the district qualifiers and state qualifiers he’s playing this year, that’s a whole different ballgame.”

Tellier said Hansen’s game is starting to become known outside of Lorain County and there seems to be a buzz whenever they enter a tournament.

“When we go to a tournament, Chaz is one of the marquee matches,” he said. “You hear a lot of ‘I’m going to check out that Chaz kid.’ You go to the LCAAA tournament and he seems to be one of the matches where all the players, coaches and parents are hanging on the fence watching that one more than the other ones.

“Chaz takes that all in stride. He doesn’t let anything faze him out there.”

Tellier said that Hansen, other than taking the fall off to be a captain and midfielder on the soccer team, has been focused on this tennis season, practicing and working out at Lorain’s FoxCreek Racquet Club.

“He’s worked real hard all winter,” Tellier said. “He got the guys to all go to FoxCreek with him and play and drill.

He’s inspired them to focus on their studies. He’s a lead-by-example kind of guy. They have each other to bounce off of.

“He takes care of business, whether it’s on the court, in the classroom, whatever he does. He’s just like a player-coach. Coach (Jake Baker) and I can look to him to lead drills and finish laps.”

Hansen is one of five seniors on a team that is replacing just one starter from last season. Connor Sexton (second singles), Kevin Cole (third singles), Eddie Adkins and Tim Niehart (second doubles), along with sophomore Shane Spencer (first doubles) all return.

“Our team’s excited,” Hansen said. “We’re really a close-knit group and we’re hoping for a great season. Our goal is to go undefeated in the conference during the regular season and win as many matches as we can.”

Hansen carries a 4.1 grade-point average and is one of the highest ranked in his class, and is going to Ohio State on an academic scholarship. He’s been accepted into the honors engineering program and will play club tennis during his downtime.

“Our whole team, we all take studies very seriously,” Hansen said. “We want to succeed in whatever we do. We want to do our best in whatever we try. That’s the mindset we’ve had all four years together.”

Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or dangilles73@gmail.com.