High School Tennis: Area district qualifiers eye state berths

The senior superlatives keep coming for Catholic Central High School’s Colin Kelly and Jack Brougher. And Friday they look to add another distinction to their high school careers – state qualifiers.

Kelly, who was voted as having the best eyes – blue, for those wondering – by his Catholic Central classmates, and Brougher, voted the best dancer in the class, compete in the Division II district tennis tournament at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.

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Earning a spot in the district tournament is reason enough to celebrate. Getting through to state – and doing so playing on the same courts used by the world’s greatest players – is a bonus.

“The goal every year is to get to state. We’ll be going in with that mindset,” Brougher said. “We’ll take them one match at a time but that first one is key.”

It sounds obvious, but winning a match at district can serve as the catalyst for qualifying for state. The Lindner Family Tennis Center can be intimidating to play at with its sprawling complex of courts. Add in the increased level of competition, including the traditionally dominant Cincinnati and Mason districts, and first-round jitters are heightened.

Brougher and Kelly lost their first match at district last season. Tecumseh senior Mitchell Foland, the lone area qualifier in D-I, goes after his first district victory in his third straight appearance.

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“Enjoy it. That’s our goal right now,” Tecumseh coach Sean Bragg said. “Live in the moment and see if you can get out of that first round.”

Foland’s chances are improved coming in as a No. 1 seed by winning the Troy sectional tournament last Saturday. He plays No. 4 Sam King, a junior from Mason. Foland needs two wins to reach the district semifinals and qualify for the state championships.

“That’s my goal this year. Try and get a win, maybe two,” Foland said. “I feel a lot more confident. Last year I came in a little shorter and a little weaker. I’ve grown a little bit and I’ve gotten better so hopefully I can win this one.”

Brougher and Kelly, seeded No. 2, plays Cincinnati Country Day’s No. 3-seeded team of junior Herschel Albert and sophomore Ash Annapantula.

“We’re hoping to win our first match. Last year we should have won our first match but we didn’t play very well,” Kelly said. “I think we can win one this year.”

Added Brougher: “We understand each other really well. That’s our biggest strength. Our chemistry is what puts us over a lot of other peoples’ skill level. We might not have the skill of other teams but our chemistry can bring us up that level or above.”

Northeastern senior and No. 2-seed Jake Calhoun plays No. 3 Anay Gautham, a sophomore from Cincinnati Indian Hill.

“I know what the competition is like down there,” Calhoun said. “It’s at another level. I really have to step it up. I’m going to be nervous for sure. You really have to play top level to make it through. … I’m going to be pumped going down playing where the pros play in Cincinnati. It’s going to be awesome.”

Northwestern senior Matt Yeager, seeded No. 3, plays No. 2 Joe Kelly, a junior from Wyoming.

“I’m just so happy to make it districts this year,” Yeager said. “That was one of my goals coming into my senior year. … Going down to Mason is a great honor to be able to play in such great facilities. I’m going to take it and enjoy it.”

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