By Chris Chaney
The New Richmond doubles team of Matt Rydzewski and Zach Manning saw their high school tennis careers come to an end at the hands’ of Seven Hills’ state-qualifying team of Henry Head and Sam Ellis (6-2, 6-2) in the first round of the district tournament on Thursday, May 23 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
“The team we played ended up qualifying for state and they were a good team,” New Richmond coach Rylan Shebesta said of the Lions’ first-round opponents. “They definitely had more experience than us. They just played smarter.”
Seven Hills qualified for districts out of the difficult Cincinnati sectional as opposed to New Richmond’s Mason sectional. Three of the four teams that qualified out of the Cincinnati sectional went on to qualify for one of the five spots in the state tournament.
Coming out of a such a difficult sectional proved valuable for Seven Hills as their court management gave them the edge of Rydzewski and Manning.
“My kids seemed somewhat intimidated even though the other kids didn’t hit hard, they were smart,” Shebesta said. “We kind of took ourselves out of it mentally at the start of the match, but that comes with experience and playing matches against better opponents and I know Seven Hills plays a pretty tough schedule.”
The mental intimidation factor appeared to be self-inflicted at times as the Lions became frustrated when their serves couldn’t find the service block, resulting in a handful of unforced errors early in the first set.
The Seven Hills team seemed content to play wall ball, simply returning the Lions’ advances and forcing them to make the mistake and lose the point. Perhaps not having their “A” game, the New Richmond duo’s unforced errors only compounded their frustration and caused them to press a bit, playing more into the hands of the more patient team from Seven Hills.
Despite the loss, Rydzewski and Manning have set the bar high for New Richmond tennis for what Shebesta hopes to be years to come.
“We’re going in the right direction,” Shebesta said of the program. “I’ve coached six years and last year (with Rydzewski and Manning) was the first year that I’ve had kids qualify into the districts. To have them go back-to-back is good because kids are starting to realize now that they need to play tournaments in the summer.
“We can go through the league and play decent matches throughout the year, but if they don’t play those tournaments together over the summer against better kids, I don’t think they’ll be prepared for sectionals. You can’t teach experience.”
Shebesta was optimistic about some of the up-and-comers in the program who have expressed interest in playing more in the summer.
Rydzewski and Manning have set the districts as not only a goal, but as a stepping stone to bigger and better things for the New Richmond tennis program, which is something they should be proud of. Sometimes it’s not the first people to break through that have the great success, but it is because of them that future Lions’ success can be achieved.