By Chris Chaney
Several close calls resulted in just two tennis players from Clermont County advancing to the district tournament, which takes place this week on Thursday, May 16 and Saturday, May 18.
Matt Rydzewski and Zach Manning comprise the New Richmond first doubles team and the only representatives from Clermont County with a shot of making it to the state tournament.
“Matt and Zach had a pretty easy first match and had a close second set (in their second match) that I think helped prepare them for Saturday,” New Richmond head tennis coach Rylan Shebesta said. “We were the two seed (and we played) Waynesville, the three seed, so we knew it was going to be pretty close.
“We ended up pulling that out and playing a very good team from CHCA (in the sectional final) that will probably advance to state.”
The pair of Rydzewski and Manning will be making their second district tournament appearance after also qualifying for the district tournament last year as well.
With that experience under their belts, Shebesta expects the duo to be more comfortable in their trip back to districts.
“They were nervous last year, but this year, we’re not expected to make it to state,” Shebesta said, “so there shouldn’t be any pressure on them. They were just nervous being there last year, so I think they’ll do better this year.”
Shebesta said both individuals have strengths to their games that make them click well as a doubles team. He said that Ryzdewski is a strong server and he gave their opponents in the sectional final some fits with his serving.
The pair has grown more familiar with one another over the past year due to some tweaks Shebesta made in the lineup. Last season, Rydzewski played first singles primarily and Manning played first doubles with another partner, but Shebesta made a decision to try and play them together more this year to grow that chemistry that manifested itself in a district tournament trip last year.
The Lions will face Seven Hills in the first round of the district, needing to win that match to ensure themselves a pair of other matches.
“If you lose your first match, you’re done,” Shebesta explained. “If you win your first one, you’re allowed to lose one. But if you win your first two matches you go to state automatically. “
With five teams advancing, the Lions need to reach the semifinals before losing or win the losers bracket to advance, however everything hangs in the balance with their first-round matchup.
To prepare, Shebesta is bringing in a partner to pair with him to try and recreate some of the difficult shots Rydzewski and Manning might face on Thursday or Saturday.
As the only team able to make it to the semifinals in their respective sectional, Rydzewski and Manning will not only be the lone representatives of their school, but also Clermont County as a whole.