September 22, 2014

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Division I district tennis: Avon’s Nico Mostardi loses, but still has shot to make state

WESTLAKE — Avon freshman Nico Mostardi had to wait an hour-and-a-half after his first match Thursday before taking the court again in Division I district play.

Then he had to wait another hour after rainy weather moved the tournament from Oberlin College to the indoor courts at Five Seasons Racquet Club.

Now Mostardi has to wait until Saturday morning to find out if he’ll become the first Avon tennis player — and first from Lorain County since 2007 — to qualify for the Division I state tournament after losing a tough quarterfinal match to fellow freshman Joey Thomas of Massillon Jackson, 7-6 (7-5), 7-5.

Mostardi made quick work of Solon’s Nam Le in the first round, winning 6-1, 7-6 (7-1). However, he had to wait while Thomas, the champion of the Canton sectional, and Walsh Jesuit’s Matt Miles battled through a marathon three-setter, which Thomas won 6-7 (5-7), 6-3, 6-4.

Just as Mostardi set his bag on the court after being summoned, tournament director Ed Wolff blew his whistle to suspend play.

Mostardi, whose first-round match ended just before 10 a.m., didn’t take the court again until shortly after 1:30 p.m.

Oberlin College’s indoor courts were unavailable due to preparations for this weekend’s graduation ceremony.

But Mostardi said neither the delay nor the change of venue were factors in his losing.

“Not at all,” said Mostardi, whose three losses this season have come against players who made it to Saturday’s semifinals. “I’ve got to give (Thomas) full credit. He just played better than me today.”

Mostardi took a 5-4 lead in both of the sets against Thomas. In fact, he had the lead after every changeovers, he just wasn’t able to put Thomas away.

Both times, Thomas came back with two wins to take 6-5 leads. In the first set, Mostardi was able to tie the score at 6 and force a tiebreaker. However, Thomas controlled the tiebreaker from the get-go and won, 7-5.

In the second set, once Thomas made his comeback, he was able to finish off Mostardi without having to go through a tiebreaker.

“I screwed up,” Mostardi said. “I played dumb tennis and that’s what I get.”
Thomas, who said he has played against Mostardi since they were both 8 years old, thought the venue change was a factor.

“The biggest thing that helped me was coming indoors,” he said. “I think outside my power shots would come and go. But in here, they stay a lot, and I’m more comfortable playing inside than outside. And, definitely, waiting an hour and 15 minutes instead of just 45 was a lot better.

“We last played a couple of months ago, and we’ve probably played each other about 10 or 11 times since we were 8. We go back-and-forth. Today, I just think I got the best of him. I knew his strengths and weaknesses, so I think that helped a little bit.”

Thomas earned his spot to next weekend’s state tournament with the win and is guaranteed to finish no lower than fourth.

“I always feel like I’m going to win,” Thomas said. “Being down 5-4 both times, I wasn’t worried one bit. I thought I was going to take it as far as I needed to go. I play better when the pressure’s on. I think my serve came on when I was down, and I think that helped me a lot.”

Mostardi has to come back Saturday morning and play another familiar opponent in Willoughby South’s Vince Anzalone in a win-or-go-home match to decide one of the final two berths in the state tournament. Anzalone, the Solon sectional champion, lost to Walsh Jesuit’s Aaron Sandberg, 7-5, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.

“This match doesn’t mean anything to me anymore,” Mostardi said. “All I care about is Saturday. I don’t even remember this (loss). Right now, all I’m thinking about is Saturday and winning and getting to state.”

Sandberg will meet Thomas in one semifinal, while St. Ignatius’ Nathan Griffin and Cloverleaf’s Jacob Dunbar will meet in the other. Griffin defeated Mostardi for the Oberlin sectional championship last weekend.

Westlake will continue its streak of sending someone to state as sophomores Connor Michelich and Cal Craven went 2-0 to advance to Saturday’s doubles semifinals.

Michelich and Craven, who spent the regular season as the Demons’ top two singles players, improved to 6-0 as a doubles team after winning the Oberlin sectional title. They defeated Hudson’s Mike Wolowiecki and Dominic Polifrone in the first round, 6-1, 6-0, and knocked off Canfield’s Nick Debiec and William Brown, 6-0, 6-1, in the quarterfinals.

Michelich and Craven will play Solon’s David Shankman and Brian Yang in Saturday’s semifinals.

The Oberlin sectional doubles runners-up, St. Ignatius’ Christian Zuber and Yaw Boakye, lost to Highland’s Steve Smykal and Michael Hutchings, 6-1, 6-1, in the quarterfinals. They’ll meet Solon’s Eric Goldberg and Dillon O’Brien in a do-or-die match Saturday morning with one of the final two state berths on the line.

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