By John Bombatch
XENIA — Connor Sell can see the improvement throughout the Xenia High School varsity tennis team’s lineup. But the senior second singles player can see plenty of unforced errors, too.
The improved Xenia Buccaneers looked to get their Greater Western Ohio Conference, South Division schedule off on a good note, hopefully with a win over visiting Lebanon. But the Warriors proved to have more experience — and fewer errors — Tuesday afternoon on the dusty Greene County Fairgrounds tennis courts.
Despite some lengthy battles on the courts Xenia fell to Lebanon, 5-0.
Sell dueled with Lebanon freshman newcomer Evan Doughman in what turned out to be the longest match of the afternoon, but the Warrior rookie held serve two more times than Sell in the final set to claim a 6-3, 6-3 win.
“We’re growing as a team, for sure,” Sell said after his match. “We just have to work on things like shot placement, which is key. You can’t just hit the ball back to the opponent every time. We’d gain a lot of points there, and we have to cut down on our unforced errors, and just build some more consistency.”
The second set against Doughman appeared at one point as if neither player wanted to win it. The two foes failed to hold serve for six straight games. It wasn’t until Doughman held serve to grab a 5-3 lead in the deciding set that either player appeared to take command of the match. The Doughman then broke Sell’s serve — coincidentally, the final point was won on an unforced error — to claim the match.
In other singles matches, fellow Xenia senior Jason Jones lost at first singles (6-2, 6-0) to James Hof; and junior Zane Cukovecki lost 6-2, 6-2 to Lebanon’s Keith Kordowski.
The Warriors earned a pair of doubles wins as well. Daniel Rudolph and Braden Zsembik claimed a 7-5, 6-0 win over the Bucs tandem of juniors Chris Brodsky and Michael Graham. And at third doubles, the junior duo of Dorien Morris-Chris Koehler lost their first match as a duo by scores of 6-3, 6-0.
Morris and Koehler are now 1-1 as a doubles pair.
Lebanon climbs to 4-2 overall, 1-0 in the GWOC South while Xenia falls to 1-4, 0-1 GWOC South.
“We’re hitting the ball better, and we’re placing our shots better. I know we lost, but I’m seeing some positives on the court,” Xenia coach Steve Cukovecki said. “I think the weather’s been hurting us, with all the rain and the snow going on. But we’re going to get back at it and keep playing hard and just keep improving every time out.”
Lebanon coach Tom Zsembik says he can see the Bucs’ improving as well.
“For the past three years, I’ve seen Steve turn Xenia’s program around,” Zsembik said. “And my boys always enjoy coming to play against Xenia because there’s no bad calls, the guys all get along, and above all, they are out there to have fun.”
Both teams return to action today. Lebanon heads over to Camden to take on Preble Shawnee, while Xenia plays host to New Carlisle Tecumseh, on the Greene County Fairgrounds courts.
John Bombatch can be reached at 937-372-4444, Ext. 2123.