St. C.’s Ryan set for district tennis tourney

ATHENS — A year older and a year wiser, Brendan Ryan is returning to Ohio University on Saturday for his second consecutive appearance in the Ohio Division II East/Southeast District Tennis Tournament.

After falling short of his goal of reaching state last spring, the St. Clairsville High School senior is hopeful that having another year of experience will be the edge he’ll need to punch a ticket for Mason’s Lindner Family Tennis Center, the site of next week’s state event.

”I think it will help a bit,” Ryan said. ”I think sometimes playing in a new place can get in people’s heads.”

Ryan will open district play with a bye in the Round of 16. He’ll then battle either Marietta’s Jacob Freeland or Waverly’s Branden Nibert in the quarterfinals. Nibert was a state qualifer last season.

The top 3 finishers earn state berths.

”I’m just going to go out there and try to play my game,” Ryan said. ”There’s going to be some good competition down there.”

Ryan said he’s been prepping for districts by working out this week with Austin Douglass, who, along with Ryan, represented the Red Devils in Athens last year.

”I’ve just been trying to get mentally prepared,” Ryan said.

After being the No. 3 seed in 2016, Ryan was seeded second at last week’s sectional tournament in Dover. Things held true to form, as Ryan won his first matches to reach the final.

First, he defeated Steubenville’s Marc Porter, 6-2, 6-1. Then, he blanked Coshocton’s Zach Bryant, 6-0, 6-0 to earn the district berth. In the semifinals, Ryan topped East Liverpool’s Alex Tambellini, 6-1, 6-4. Then, in the title match, Ryan fell to the Potters’ Chris Montgomery, 6-4, 6-1. Tambellini and Montgomery will join Ryan in the district field.

”This is second year there, so we’re hoping for good things,” St. Clairsville head coach J.C. Yevincy said.

Unlike sectionals, where it took two victories to advance, it will take three to move on in Athens. Yevincy is confident Ryan has the stamina — physically and mentally — to prevail.

”He’s very tenacious,” he said. ”He doesn’t get rattled like other players. He’ll be down, but rally back. He’s pretty much unflappable.

”In tennis, you will lose points. But he doesn’t let that bother him. He doesn’t dwell on past mistakes.”

Ryan said he enjoyed a fine 2017 campaign, bolstered by offseason work with the Wheeling-Oglebay Tennis Club, where he helps with camps, etc. He also serves as a part-time tennis instructor with longtime Ohio Valley tennis teacher Jerry Mulhern.

”He’s really taken on a leadership role this year,” Yevincy said of Ryan, the Red Devils’ captain. ”He’s assisted with practices and really helped mentor other players quite a bit. He’ll be missed for sure.”

Ryan received the Sportsmanship Award at this year’s OVAC Tournament.

”He’s not only a good athlete, he’s a very good sport about things,” Yevincy said. ”You see him playing hard during the match, then joking around and having a good time. He’s very relaxed.”

Ryan said keeping the ball in play and getting his serves in will be major keys to having success Saturday.

”It will take a huge effort, but his maturity will go a long way, hopefully, toward him making it to state,” Yevincy said.