OXFORD — First-place league finishes are nothing new to the Talawanda High School Boys’ Tennis team and they did it for the fifth consecutive time this year but they needed everything to go right for them and it did.
Talawanda went into the Southwest Ohio Conference championship meet May 5 having finished second to Harrison in the regular season. The championship is based on points from both the regular season and championship meet.
“It was awesome. We thought we’d have to share (the title). We lost to Harrison in the regular season. Justin Clawson was sick at number one. The lineup was in a shambles. We had to win the tournament but it would likely be shared,” Coach Pete Thomas said. “We got help from Ross. Harrison was in four championships and we were in three. They lost all four and we won all of ours.”
Talawanda finished the regular season with 3-1 record behind Harrison’s 4-0 league mark and Ross was third at 2-2. In the tournament, Talawanda won all three singles titles and took third in both doubles events for 24 points. Ross stepped up and took both doubles titles, beating Harrison in both, for 21 points and second place while Harrison was third with 19 points.
It marked the fifth year in a row Talawanda has won the SWOC title and sixth in the last seven.
Senior Justin Clawson was named Player of the Year in the SWOC for his effort winning at first singles.
“Justin had a phenomenal match against Harrison. He won the second set on a tiebreaker with an awesome shot. It was probably one of the top points I’ll remember in my career as coach,” Thomas said. “He worked the Harrison kid hard in the third set.”
Jake Clawson, also a senior, won the SWOC championship as second singles and freshman Milo Flaspohler did the same at third singles.
The Clawson brothers were given high praise by their coach, who said they will be missed next year and will remain as two of the top players he has coached in 25 years in the sport.
“Nate Silberstein and I have been coaching together a long time and think about a quarter-century team and the Clawsons are on it,” Thomas said. Flaspohler drew praise, too, for his work at the other end of the class/age spectrum. “Milo took care of business, closing out third singles. He played with a swagger freshmen don’t usually show.”
The first doubles team saw a pair of sophomores, Aiden Bruder and Bryce James, competing while at second doubles were sophomore Jade Ney and senior Max Kelly.
Thomas praised the work of Bruder and James, who made the most of their year on the junior varsity team last year and came to the varsity ready to contribute.
“They were thrown to the wolves but made a great doubles team this year. We hope they will be ready to step into bigger roles next year,” the coach said. He expects next year’s team to be ready but figures there will be an even bigger challenge than this year. “The cards are stacked against us next year. The Clawsons made it easy. There are some on jayvee who play nicely. We are not losing a ton, but we are losing some really good players. We will enjoy this for now, but it will definitely be tough.”
Both Clawson brothers were named to the SWOC All-Conference first team while Flaspohler was on the second team list. James and Bruder received honorable mention and Ney and Kelly were given the Talawanda sportsmanship Award.
This year’s team carried a regular season record of 7-7 into this past week in a tough schedule which included the likes of Lakota East, Moeller, St. X “B” team, Badin, Elder, LaSalle and Mariemont. He expects that to continue. Thomas has always been a coach who challenges his teams against strong competition outside of the league to get his players ready for league play, which accounts for all the SWOC trophies his teams have accumulated.
“Tennis is such a mental game. You have to know you can make your shots and have got to be on your “A” game,” he said. “We will shy away from no one.”
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