As a whole, the sport of tennis takes an incredible amount of concentration, poise, and quick reactions in order to succeed at the highest of levels.
And throughout his career, Valley’s Brandon Phillips grew in both areas.
Now, he’ll have a chance to make a lasting impression as part of the very first men’s tennis unit in the history of the Ashland Eagles’ athletic department.
The multi-sport athlete, who also played soccer for the Indians as a midfielder, signed with Ashland on Thursday afternoon in a signing ceremony that was held on the Valley High School campus in Lucasville.
For Phillips, the opportunity to play at the NCAA Division II level for the Eagles is an opportunity that won’t be taken for granted, especially considering the amount of work that has gone into getting to the stage that he is at today.
“It means a lot to me,” Phillips said. “I’ve been working really hard to get to that level, and it’s an honor that Ashland is giving me that shot.”
In the tennis realm, the senior, along with fellow classmate Nate Crabtree, combined to make an excellent run in Division II Boys Southeast Sectional action as the duo defeated Unioto’s Brayden Warren and Joel Brown in straight sets, along with Washington Court House’s Max Schroeder and Blaise Tayese (6-2, 6-3) to qualify for Division II East/Southeast District play.
At that juncture, Phillips and Crabtree took down their opening round matchup, which was against the West Holmes doubles unit of Garrett Gallion and Curtis Wagner, by a 6-4, 7-5 margin before falling to Logan Elm’s Avery Clouse and Jonathan Reisinger, 6-1, 6-2, in the quarterfinals of the East/Southeast District Tournament. They were the only Scioto County doubles unit to advance to that stage in 2018.
“It’s been great,” Phillips said of his experience playing with Crabtree. “We’ve been playing for a while together. It was nice to go to districts and get ourselves to that stage after working hard throughout our careers to do so. It was really good to play with Nick. We’ve worked really well together. It’s also been nice to get to know (Greg) Gibbs. He’s helped us out a lot this year and has done a really good job.”
On the soccer pitch, Phillips contributed to a unit that led Valley to an exciting 1-0 victory over Clay in the Division III Sectional Finals, a victory that allowed the Indians to return to the Division III Sectional Semifinals after a year’s absence from that stage.
“We didn’t have the best seasons over the last few years, but we were really able to get it rolling there at the end of the season and finish in a strong manner,” Phillips said. “I played soccer for a while, so it was nice to experience the postseason success that we were able to experience this past season, and do so with the great teammates that I had along the way.”
At Ashland, Lexi Bolesky, who has been the coach of the women’s tennis program since the Fall of 2016, has already built the women’s program into a respectable one.
According to the Ashland University athletic website, the former Lexington High School and Coastal Carolina tennis standout, who was a two-time Division I All-Ohio First-Team selection and a two-time Division I All-Ohio Second-Team selection at Lexington, and went on to accumulate marks of 74-44 and 74-39 in singles and doubles with the Chanticleers, led Ashland’s women’s unit to eight victories in 2017-18 after the program went just 1-17 in her first season as head coach.
Prior to her coaching tenure at Ashland, Bolesky assisted at Coastal Carolina from 2012 to 2015, where she was part of a staff that mentored two Big South Freshmen of the Year and developed the entire tennis staff into a consistent winner as the program won 16 or more games in three consecutive seasons. She’s already signed Olentangy’s Stuart Brdicka and Jordan Phelps, in addition to Fairfield Christian Academy’s Colten Clark, for the 2018 season — and all three of those individuals have achieved rankings that have placed the trio in the top 350 players nationally amongst their Class of 2018 counterparts.
As a whole, Phillips is certainly excited for the chance to compete for a program that will have the best of the best from the Buckeye State on its roster. However, the future marketing major will miss the relationships that he developed with his classmates — and being in a Valley uniform, in general.
“I’m really excited to go to Ashland, but I’m nervous and sad about it at the same time,” Phillips said. “I’m going to miss it here.”
Reach Kevin Colley at (740) 353-3101 ext. 1930 OR on Twitter @KColleyPDT