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High School Tennis

Team effort leads Cloverleaf to first PTC title since 2008

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    Cloverleaf's George Gillespie plays the ball against Coventry's Carter Derrig during his second singles match.

    AARON JOSEFCZYK / GAZETTE

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    Cloverleaf's Frank English plays the ball during his third singles match against Ravenna's Geriko Huth.

    AARON JOSEFCZYK / GAZETTE

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RAVENNA — For the first time in 11 years, the Cloverleaf boys tennis team can call itself league champions.

George Gillespie, Frank English and the doubles team of Parker Gregoire and Jacob Ewart captured individual crowns and Joe Donnelly finished second in the marquee singles bracket Wednesday, powering the Colts to the Portage Trail Conference Tournament title.

Cloverleaf, which went undefeated in PTC regular-season dual matches, became outright champion for the initial time since joining the conference and for the first time since 2008 in the Suburban League.

“We have a strong team throughout the lineup and we’ve kept the momentum going all season,” said Donnelly, the top freshman in Medina County. “Our goal was to come here and finish it out the right way. We did it. Everyone contributed. We clinched it as a team.”

The Colts (43 points) won the tourney over Woodridge (37), while regular-season runner-up Norton (36) was third in the six-school competition.

Cloverleaf was the only squad to reach the finals in more than two brackets, doing so in four. The Colts finished a distant fourth in the PTC last year, but steamrolled their competition from their opening match this spring.

“When you watch our team play, it’s really evident how strong everyone is,” second singles kingpin Gillespie said.

“We’re all here for each other and our synergy is really good. Honestly, last year was kind of dysfunctional, so I didn’t know how our team relationship would be, but it’s been great the entire way.”

Seniors Gillespie and English were the only top seeds to emerge as champions on a very windy, 84-degree day at Ravenna High.

Gillespie made quick work of Norton’s Jed Swym 6-1, 6-0, while English rallied for a 2-6, 6-2, 6-4 triumph over Norton’s Connor Kropp at third singles. The latter victory locked up Cloverleaf’s team title.

“It is definitely a dream come true,” English said. “We jelled as a team and everybody contributed to this championship.”

English’s comeback was the most notable of the seven-hour event, featuring several crazy points fueled by strong gusts. One saw him lob a ball from the back line that dropped just over the net, then spun back over to his side for a point while a helpless Kropp could only watch.

“I just stayed focused and didn’t get overwhelmed or upset about every point,” English said. “When we got to the third set, it was basically 0-0, but I felt confident that I would be able to close it out for our team.”

Woodridge senior Tanner Laughorn defeated Donnelly in the first singles final 6-3, 6-3, avenging a pair of regular-season losses and forcing them to share PTC Player of the Year honors. Their showdown occurred during the windiest portion of the afternoon, visibly frustrating both athletes as it hampered the caliber of play.

Sophomores Gregoire and Ewart, seeded fifth, provided the most pleasant surprise for the Colts, upsetting the fourth, first and second seeds at second doubles. They won the first and third sets in their first two victories before sweeping Woodridge’s Jackson McLaughlin and Brandan Schertz 6-3, 6-2.

The duo took advantage of every opportunity in the final, even scoring a point off an inadvertent forehand to the groin that delayed play for several minutes.

“Our second doubles team came through huge for us today — and we wouldn’t have won it without them,” Cloverleaf coach Mike McGee said. “In order to win any championship in any sport, you need someone to step up in the clutch. Parker and Jacob were those guys. They were great for three matches in a row.”

At first doubles, seniors Brennen Lavery and Caleb Porcello posted an 8-4 win in the fifth-place match as McGee earned his initial league title in the sport. He previously coached a state champion in Jacob Dunbar, a perennial state qualifier in Ethan Dunbar and a 100-match winner in Austin Hanna, but hadn’t checked off this box until now.

“I didn’t sleep a minute last night because I was so nervous thinking about all of the possibilities of how all of the brackets could go,” the 11th-year coach said. “I’m glad to finally add a league championship to my resume. I’m going to sleep well tonight, I’ll tell you that.”

Contact Brian Dulik at brisports@hotmail.com.

Results

RAVENNA — Results from the Portage Trail Conference Tournament:

Teamtournamentstandings: 1. Cloverleaf 43, 2. Woodridge 37, 3. Norton 36, 4. Coventry 32, 5. Ravenna 31, 6. Field 17.

Regular- seasonstandings: 1. Cloverleaf 9-0, 2. Norton 7-3, 3. Woodridge 6-4, 4. Coventry 4-5, 5. Ravenna 2-8, 6. Field 0-10.

Overallstandings: 1. Cloverleaf 20, 2. Norton, Woodridge 15, 4. Coventry 12, 5. Ravenna 10, 6. Field 8.

Championship matches

Firstsingles: Tanner Laughorn (Woodridge) def. Joe Donnelly (Cloverleaf), 6-3, 6-3. Secondsingles: George Gillespie (Cloverleaf) def. Jed Swym (Norton), 6-1, 6-0. Thirdsingles: Frank English (Cloverleaf) def. Connor Kropp (Norton), 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. Firstdoubles: Gage Michael/Ben Kovacic (Ravenna) def. Josh Watson/Graham Evans (Coventry), 0-6, 6-2, 6-3. Seconddoubles: Parker Gregoire/Jacob Ewart (Cloverleaf) def. Jackson McLaughlin/Brandan Schertz (Woodridge), 6-3, 6-2.

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