Over the coaching tenure of Bobby Blanton, the Clay Panthers’ tennis program has developed from a regular SOC I contender into the main powerhouse of the conference behind the work of the multi-talented individual.
Last week, that work paid off in spades for Clay once again as Blanton, thanks to the work of his entire Clay unit, finished the conference portion of their 2018 schedule out in style by sweeping the SOC I Singles and SOC I Doubles Championships in New Boston on the second year of the newly revamped tennis courts that Dan Fetty and the Village of New Boston helped bring back to life last Wednesday and Thursday evening.
SOC I Singles Review
In SOC I singles action, Bryson Davis and CJ Craft got the ball rolling for New Boston in a positive manner as Davis defeated Notre Dame’s Kyle McGraw by a 6-4, 6-3 count while Craft defeated East’s Noah Stiltner by a 6-0, 6-1 margin to give Jason Carter’s club a pair of victories in the opening round of the SOC I singles tournament.
Notre Dame’s Connor Madden and East’s Kyle Flannery, however, avenged McGraw’s 6-4, 6-3 defeat and Stiltner’s 6-0, 6-1 loss by posting a win apiece for the Titans and Tartans in the opening round. Madden took home a 6-3, 6-1 victory over East’s Devon Stevens, while Flannery added a 7-5, 6-3 victory over Notre Dame’s Alston Linn to move on to the quarterfinals.
In the quarterfinals of the SOC I singles tournament, however, Clay — who put three of its four players in the quarterfinal round — began to assert its dominance. Led by the strong play of strongholds Gage Keller, Garrett Stone, and Inigo Velilla, the Panthers claimed victories from each of their top three singles players, with Keller defeating Davis by a 6-0, 6-0 margin, Stone defeating Craft by a 6-1, 6-0 tally, and Velilla defeating Flannery by a 7-5, 6-2 margin. New Boston’s Jaycee Carter added an impressive win over Madden, 6-4, 6-1, to become the fourth semifinalist in the group.
With three of its four players in the semifinal round of the SOC I Singles Tournament, Clay didn’t disappoint their head coach as Blanton got two players in either an SOC I Singles or Doubles final for the second season in a row thanks to Keller’s 6-3, 6-1 victory over Stone and Velilla’s hard-fought 6-0, 6-3 win over Carter. Then, in fittingly the best match of the entire SOC I singles tournament, Keller followed up his doubles partner during their run to a OHSAA Division II state appearance — Nate Hinze, who won the 2017 SOC I Singles Championship — by defeating Velilla in a wild 7-5, 6-4 matchup.
SOC I Singles Results
Bryce Davis (New Boston) def. Kyle McGraw (Notre Dame) 6-4, 6-3
CJ Craft (New Boston) def. Noah Stiltner (East) 6-0, 6-1
Connor Madden (Notre Dame) def. Devon Stevens (East) 6-3, 6-1
Kyle Flannery (East) def. Alston Linn (Notre Dame) 7-5, 6-3
Gage Keller (Clay) def. Bryce Davis (New Boston) 6-0, 6-0
Garrett Stone (Clay) def. CJ Craft (New Boston) 6-1, 6-0
Jaycee Carter (New Boston) def. Connor Madden (Notre Dame) 6-4, 6-1
Inigo Velilla (Clay) def. Kyle Flannery (East) 7-5, 6-2
Gage Keller (Clay) def. Garrett Stone (Clay) 6-3, 6-1
Inigo Velilla (Clay) def. Jaycee Carter (New Boston) 6-0, 6-3
Finals — SOC I Tennis Championship
Gage Keller (Clay) def. Inigo Velilla (Clay) 7-5, 6-4
SOC I Doubles Review
Behind the play of both of its doubles units, the Clay Panthers’ and the Notre Dame Titans’ tennis programs were able to settle the SOC I Championship among themselves as each of the two primary doubles units advanced out of the first round into the semifinals during the tournament. Clay’s No. 2 doubles unit of Regan Osborn and Sarah Widdowson defeated New Boston’s Austin Gosselen and Jacob Hayes by a 6-4, 6-2 tally in a hard-fought match, while Notre Dame’s Spencer Wilcox and Joyce Zheng matched Osborn and Widdowson with a win of their own by a 6-0, 6-1 tally.
Following the victory by the duo, Clay’s Hunter Armstrong and Caden Cline continued the hot trend for the Panthers by defeating Jeremy Conkel and Kennedy Warner via 6-1, 6-1 tallies, while Notre Dame’s Karli Boland and Lexi Graf defeated Vinnie Crookshank and Hannah Fulk by margins of 6-1, 6-0 to set up two Clay vs. Notre Dame matchups in the semifinals.
In the semifinal matchups, Notre Dame’s Spencer Wilcox and Joyce Zheng, along with Clay’s Hunter Armstrong and Caden Cline, made both programs 1-1 in their two matches against each other. Notre Dame’s No. 1 doubles unit, Wilcox and Zheng, collected a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Osborn and Widdowson, while Armstrong and Cline, Clay’s No. 1 doubles unit, collected a 6-3, 6-0 victory over Boland and Graf, who represented Notre Dame’s No. 2 doubles team.
With the showdown set between Clay’s and Notre Dame’s No. 1 tennis units, the match didn’t disappoint as both No. 1 teams fought to make the battle the first three-set battle of the entire tournament — singles or doubles. However, when the dust settled, Armstrong and Cline emerged victorious over Wilcox and Zheng in a brilliant match as the duo took home the 7-5, 1-6, 6-4 victory in a gauntlet of a match.
SOC I Doubles
First Round — Quarterfinals
Regan Osborn/Sarah Widdowson (Clay) def. Austin Gosselen/Jacob Hayes (New Boston) 6-4, 6-2
Spencer Wilcox/Joyce Zheng (Notre Dame) def. Jacob Keeton/Howell (East) 6-0, 6-1 (no first names given for East)
Hunter Armstrong/Caden Cline (Clay) def. Jeremy Conkel/Kennedy Warner (New Boston) 6-1, 6-1
Karli Boland/Lexi Graf (Notre Dame) def. Vinnie Crookshank/Hannah Fulk (East), 6-1, 6-0
Spencer Wilcox/Joyce Zheng (Notre Dame) def. Regan Osborn/Sarah Widdowson (Clay) 6-1, 6-2
Hunter Armstrong/Caden Cline (Clay) def. Karli Boland/Lexi Graf (Notre Dame) 6-3, 6-0
Finals — SOC II Doubles Championship
Hunter Armstrong/Caden Cline (Clay) def. Spencer Wilcox/Joyce Zheng (Notre Dame) 7-5, 1-6, 6-4
Gage Keller won SOC I Player of the Year … Bobby Blanton won Coach of the Year for the second season in a row and has guided Clay to a 24-5 record, including an 18-4 SOC mark, over the past two seasons … Teammates Inigo Velilila and Garrett Stone, along with New Boston’s Jaycee Carter, were named as All-SOC singles players … Clay’s Hunter Armstrong and Caden Cline, along with Notre Dame’s Spencer Wilcox and Joyce Zheng, were named as All-SOC doubles players.
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT
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