By Brad Morris
Teays Valley improved its perfect record inside the Mid-State League Buckeye Division to 9-0 and wrapped up the league championship on Thursday with a 5-0 win over host Fisher Catholic.
Coach Sheila Clements was pleased to see the Vikings capture their first league crown since 2014 after falling a point short of the honor last season against Bloom-Carroll.
“The players have worked very hard all season long, elevating their game and adding more tools and strategies to access while on the courts competing,” she said. “In 2022, we lost out on an MSL title by one point, so to flip the script this season was an amazing feeling! I am extraordinarily proud of my team and all they’ve accomplished this season on the courts.”
Kika Lavrador scored a 7-5 and 6-4 win at first singles over Fisher Catholic’s Ellit Boley, Teays Valley’s Owen Kennedy defeated Sophie Shaw 6-1 and 6-0 at second singles and TV teammate Baltazar Boleto dispatched Nathanel Reiling 6-1 and 6-3 at third singles.
The TV first doubles team of Luke Burgett and McCoy Samlow topped Reece Hagy and Jacob Krooner 7-5 and 6-1. The TV second doubles team of Simon Jones and Cam Elliott defeated Annie McGill and Eloa Rivada 6-2 and 6-0.
Clements discussed the Vikings overcoming injury and illness in recent weeks to successfully continue a perfect league season.
“In the waning weeks of the season, we’ve had injury and illness, but the team adjusted and got the job done. Owen Kennedy and Francisca “Kika” Lavrador, my first and second singles players, have been great this season, consistently holding down their courts and pulling out some clutch wins,” she said. “Lavrador was down 5-2 in the first set versus Fisher Catholic and battled back winning the first set 7-5, pulling out six straight games to snag the win, with a second set score of 6-4.”
Clements also highlighted a number of key performances that helped the Vikings claim both matches this season against two-time reigning league champion Bloom-Carroll and winning six of the 10 courts.
“Junior Owen Kennedy, a three-year varsity player, pulled out a three-set victory at Bloom-Carroll with set scores of 7-6(4), 1-6, and 6-4,” she said. “At the same Bloom-Carroll match, Baltazar Boleto pulled out a three-set victory after dropping the 1st set 1-6. He re-grouped and re-focused and won his court.
“At the second Bloom-Carroll match-up of the season, one of my doubles players was injured, so junior Simon Jones popped into that position, and he and his partner, Junior Cameron Elliott went to work and won their court in straight sets. McCoy Samlow and Luke Burgett, have also been instrumental to our success, consistently winning their courts throughout the season. Samlow and Burgett, who played doubles together for a large portion of the league matches, only lost their courts once.”
Clements discussed the differences that the game of tennis brings and the importance of winning as many courts as possible.
“When a league title comes down to a couple points it places a lot of pressure on the athletes because every court counts,” she said. “Tennis is a bit different in that you can beat everyone in your league, but that’s not enough to win a title!
“It’s all about the courts and the points, so a dropped court here and another court there, and you’re neck and neck with other competitive teams. In the end, my team prevailed by staying focused and putting in the work. The development of this group of athletes has been tremendous and I can’t wait to see what next season has in store for them. My team is very young, so with the exception of Lavrador, my entire team will be back next season.”
Clements was an assistant coach for the Vikings when they last won a league title and has watched since then as they fell just short of adding some additional hardware to the trophy case.
“The team has logged numerous second-place finishes, but this year fought their way to the top, so we’re very excited to add this title to the program’s history. It’s been a long time coming and was well-deserved by this group of athletes,” she said. “When I first starting coaching spring tennis in 2014, I was the assistant coach. So, to win another title in 2023 as the head coach, is truly a full circle moment.”