It turned out to be so wide open, in fact, it was almost too close to call.
The race for the team championship Saturday at Avon Lake High School was decided by just two points and, to add to the drama, it came down to the final match of the tournament — the third singles championship between Lake Ridge senior Qasim Syed and Avon freshman Oliver Burger.
Syed, who was on the team that took second at first doubles last year, withstood a tough first set and used that momentum to defeat Burger 7-5, 6-2 to not only win his first LCAAA title, but also clinch the title for the Royals, 38-36 over the Eagles.
Vermilion finished third with 34 points, while six-time defending champion Avon Lake — despite sweeping the doubles titles — was fourth with 33.
Had Burger defeated Syed, Lake Ridge and Avon would have been co-champions with 37 points each. However, Syed joined two-time LCAAA champion Roger Peckham (second singles) as the Royals’ individual champions.
“I know it’s the first one we’ve won since I’ve been coaching,” Lake Ridge coach Rich Robbins said of the LCAAA title. “We barely squeaked it out, but I’m happy. We had to beat Avon in that last one to do it — it doesn’t get more exciting than that.”
Syed said didn’t know the team title was on the line during his match until it was over.
“I go by the nickname of Q-Tip, and my motto is, ‘Pass me the ball and I’ll tip it in for the game-winner,’” he said. “I did just that today. To win the team title means the world to me because I’m a senior. To win this in my last year with my teammates and my closest friends is a heartwarming feeling for me. This is probably the greatest moment of my senior year. I couldn’t be happier.”
Peckham, a junior who won the LCAAA third singles title as a freshman before taking runner-up honors at second singles last year, didn’t think he played his best. However, he came back from an early deficit to knock off Amherst sophomore Cory Habecker 4-6, 6-3, 6-1 for the championship.
“After losing here last year, I wanted to regain that feeling of winning here that I had as a freshman,” Peckham said. “I have to admit I was a bit worried (after losing the first set). But I regained my composure and got back to playing at the level I thought I should be.”
The first doubles team of sophomore Henry Lin and senior Casey Al-Haddad gave the Royals three finalists, however, they were defeated by three-time LCAAA champions Austin Wright and Jack O’Neill of Avon Lake 6-1, 6-1 in the championship.
“Last year, we came close to winning it,” Robbins said. “So we felt good about our chances this year.”
Avon had just one championship, but it was the biggest one — first singles.
Freshman phenom Nico Mostardi stayed unbeaten, knocking off a pair of two-time district qualifiers and a defending LCAAA first singles champion on the way to the title. He defeated Lake Ridge junior Caleb Mayer 6-3, 6-2 in the semifinals, before knocking off Vermilion senior Chaz Hansen 6-2, 6-0 in the finals.
“To win this tournament as a freshman is definitely a great accomplishment,” Mostardi said. “Hopefully, I can win this all four years — that’s the goal.”
Contact Dan Gilles at 329-7135 or email@example.com.
TEAM STANDINGS: 1. Lake Ridge 37, 2. Avon 36, 3. Vermilion 34, 4. Avon Lake 33, 5. Amherst 25, 6. Midview 22, 7. Elyria 18, 8. Oberlin 11, 9. North Ridgeville 8.
Championship: Nico Mostardi (Av) def. Chaz Hansen (V), 6-2, 6-0. Semifinals: Mostardi (Av) def. Caleb Mayer (LR), 6-3, 6-2; Hansen (V) def. Dima Bosch (O), 6-0, 6-2. Quarterfinals: Mostardi (Av) def. Kevin Grau (M), 6-2, 6-1; Mayer (LR) def. Zach Sroka (Am), 6-1, 6-0; Bosch (O) def. Scotty Behmer (E), 6-1, 6-1; Hansen (V) def. Tim Villari (AL), 6-4, 6-1.
Championship: Roger Peckham (LR) def. Cory Habecker (Am), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1. Semifinals: Habecker (Am) def. Connor Sexton (V), 6-2, 6-3; Peckham (LR) def. Macklin Robbins (Av), 6-2, 6-1. Quarterfinals: Habecker (Am) def. Hunter Tharp (AL), 6-3, 7-5; Sexton (V) def. Brian Priore (NR), 6-0, 6-1; Robbins (Av) def. Jason Grau (M), 6-0, 6-2; Peckham (LR) def. Jeff Emilio (E), 7-5, 6-0.
Championship: Qasim Syed (LR) def. Oliver Burger (Av), 7-5, 6-2. Semifinals: Syed (LR) def. Quinn Miller (Am), 6-1, 6-1; Burger (Av) def. Jimmy Chase (AL), 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Quarterfinals: Syed (LR) def. Cameron Schroth (O), 6-1, 6-0; Miller (Am) def. Chris Andre de le Porte (M), 6-2, 6-4; Burger (Av) def. Alex Melendez (E), 6-0, 6-1; Chase (AL) def. Shane Spencer (V), 6-1, 6-2.
Championship: Austin Wright-Jeff O’Neill (AL) def. Henry Lin-Casey Al-Haddad (LR), 6-1, 6-1. Semifinals: Wright-O’Neill (AL) def. Scott Priddy-Tom Wynne (M), 6-2, 6-2; Lin-Al-Haddad (LR) def. Kevin Cole-Colin Pawlowski (V), 6-3, 6-4. Quarterfinals: Wright-O’Neill (AL) def. Jay Willis-Brendan Esber (NR), 6-0, 6-0; Priddy-Wynne (M) def. Patrick McCormick-Aaron Tolson (E), 7-6 (7-4), 6-2; Cole-Pawlowski (V) def. Sterling Voss-Harry Higgins (Am), 6-1, 6-4; Lin-Al-Haddad (LR) def. Tyler Badt-Chance Nicklaus (Av), 6-2, 4-6, 7-5.
Championship: Eric Stonecipher-Austin Rice (AL) def. Eddie Adkins-Tim Niehart (V), 6-3, 6-0.
Semifinals: Stonecipher-Rice (AL) def. Scott Peggs-Daniel March (E), 6-1, 6-1; Adkins-Niehart (V) def. Nevi Baskar-Shaun Alexander (Av), 6-4, 6-4. Quarterfinals: Stonecipher-Rice (AL) def. John Scalli-Jordan Kneisel (Am), 6-1, 5-7, 6-0; Peggs-March (E) def. Cory Gable-Stephen Bickford (NR), 6-4, 6-4; Baskar-Alexander (Av) def. Ryan Caithaml-Ryan Cicone (M), 6-0, 7-5; Adkins-Niehart (V) def. Tyler Reese-Jacob Dempsey (LR), 4-6, 6-3, 6-1.