Heading into the Div. II Wooster Sectionals, Triway was in the midst of adversity that could have carried over to the court. Instead, they rallied, using that strife to be dominant on the tennis court and follow the lead of captain Logan McAllister.
“We had some turmoil heading into the tournament,” said Jason Self, who recently took over as Triway’s head coach. “But McAllister pulled the guys together and put the expectation out there, that they had to perform. Every one of them stepped up big.”
Biggest of all was McAllister himself, who opened with a battle against St. Vincent-St. Mary’s Nathan Smith. McAllister saw a 4-1 lead begin slip away in the first set before rallying and finishing with a 6-4, 7-6 (7-2) win to advance. His reward of him was facing Central Christian’s Nathan Stjernholm, the No. 4 seed, and McAllister fell behind early 4-6. With some words of advice between sets with Self, McAllister tightened up the screws and rallied for his sixth win of the season 6-3, 10-5.
“We call him the comeback kid and he has lived up to that this year and today,” said Self. “He struggled with nerves in that first match midway through before getting back on track and closing him out. In that second match, he felt the weight of the seed and he just wasn’t playing aggressive.
“We talked after that first set and we said, let’s play our way,” added Self. “We said, we have nothing to lose, let’s win playing our way or lose playing our way.”
McAllister answered the bill for the win to clinch a spot at districts before finishing his day with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Vinny Chiofallo from Orrville.
“All three of his matches were brutal wars,” said Self. “It was hot, the kids were feeling the heat, but McAllister pushed it to the side and in that final match for the day, he dealt with Chiofallo’s 120 mile-per-hour serve. He did a great job taking away his weapons and I couldn’t be more proud of him. “
At first singles, Paul Self also found success, and isn’t done yet. Playing three matches, Dhevan Sivapatham earned a ticket across from Self, but due to being only allowed to play three matches in a day, they will resume at 11 am on Thursday. Self opened with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Norwayne’s Caleb Keiper and then earned his semifinal spot with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Orrville’s Sawyer Zimmerman.
“He played really solid,” said Self. “He really played a good match in both battles and he put his dominate face on and it showed.”
A win over Sivapatham will punch a district ticket and could potentially set up a rematch with Cloverleaf’s Joe Donnelly, a familiar opponent for Self. A year ago, the pair locked up in a match that lasted over two hours.
Triway’s doubles team of Kyle Hall and Xantheus Hasskew opened their day with a wild 6-4, 2-6, 10-6 win. They advanced onward and improved to 2-0 on the day with a 6-3, 6-3 win before seeing their season come to a halt by the second-seeded Canton Central Catholic pairing of Anthony Masuro and Michael Stangl, 6-0, 6-0.
“This is a tandem that I am most proud of,” said Self. “A week ago they were struggling and doubting themselves, and today, they were so close and just ran into a wall. They just battled it out and played so well today.”
With a strong day one coming to a close, Self reflected back on the season and all the preparation for today and what is coming. It’s clear, his team’s preparation for it all, is coming to fruition.
“Our very first meeting of the season, we talked about the season matches just being practices for tournament,” said Self. “Nobody showed up, not ready to play today and everybody geared up. Also the camaraderie was amazing among the guys.”
Now they wait until Thursday morning at 11 am to resume sectionals and eye their spot at district.
The Red Riders were led by Chiofallo, who punched his district ticket with a wild 4-6, 6-4, 10-5 win of his own. Rallying from the early 1-0 hole, Chiofallo never flinched as he buckled down and punched his ticket to the semifinals. He opened his day with a 6-1, 6-1 win.
“Chiofallo is just a sophomore, he’s had to play No. 1 this year and it’s hard,” said Orrville coach Kent Smith. “Rittgers, McAllister and Chiofallo are all great kids and good tennis players.”
Chippewa was led by Carson Hutzell and Garrett Hillyer, who opened with a 6-1, 6-3 win and then punched their ticket into the quarters with a 6-1, 6-1 win. There the Chipp tandem found itself face-to-face with Orrville’s Josh Rittgers and Toby McAllister.
What ensued was a battle as Rittgers and McAllister earned a 1-0 led by taking the first set 6-2, before Hutzell and Hillyer turned it up a notch to win the last two sets 6-2, 6-2.
“They just outplayed out us and a lot of credit goes to them,” said Smith. “At this level, it’s about managing your errors and they just did a little better job than we did at that.
We finished our season strong, winning six of seven matches to finish the year and the kids had a nice run to close it. It’s a little disappointing to not make it to districts, but Chippewa played a little better than us today. “