Copley puts a thorn in Riders' side

By David Carducci Record-Courier staff writer Published:

When the Kent Roosevelt boys tennis team faced Copley last year, only half the Rough Riders' squad participated while the other half finished a suspended Western Reserve Conference South Division match at Cuyahoga Falls.

Roosevelt lost that match to Copley 3-2.

But with the entire team available for this year's rematch at Kent Friday afternoon, the Rough Riders came in confident of a reversal of fortunes.

"I think with everybody here playing varsity this time, the guys probably thought they would win 4-1," said Roosevelt coach Kim Uhlik.

That prediction didn't hold true as Copley handed Roosevelt its first loss of the season, 3-2, in a non-conference match.

"We may not have taken them seriously enough, and maybe this is a wakeup call for us," said Uhlik. "I hope we learned that we have to be aggressive all the time. You have to keep your opponent back on their heels and never let the pressure off until the last ball goes over the net."

That was a lesson Uhlik preached to junior Matt Kane in the middle of his first singles match with Copley's Mike Kropko.

Kane lost the first set 6-1, but during play Kropko came up with an injured right ankle.

Despite the injury, Kane allowed Kropko to stay in the match by "taking it easy" on the hobbled player, according to Uhlik.

During a five-minute break while Kropko attempted to walk off the injury, Uhlik told Kane not to allow himself to let up.

"I emphasized that the other player had a right to come off the court," said Uhlik. "He didn't have to be on there, and although my sympathies were with him, if he chose to stay on there, Matt had to play the ball. Although tennis is a very gentlemanly sport, you come to compete. And the idea is you compete to the best of your ability while not disgracing your opponent."

Kane came back to score a 1-6, 6-3, 6-0 victory to go 3-0 on the season.

"I'm glad he had that kind of compassion," said Uhlik. "But you have to remember that this is a competition, and he had the right to hit the ball back the way he's supposed to be hitting the ball back."

With Kane's victory, Roosevelt (2-1) earned a 2-2 split of the first four completed matches.

Anil Bhargava won the Rough Riders' other match, beating Steve Nenadov 6-0, 6-1 at second doubles.

"Anil has been improving by leaps and bounds with every match," said Uhlik. "His confidence is growing and growing and his match results are showing that. He's undefeated on the season, 3-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference. He played all during the off-season, and as a result he picked up the intangible of knowing how to win and not losing confidence in yourself when you are in a down spot. That has been the difference for him."

Copley (3-0) won a pair of two-set matches at third singles and second doubles. Ryan Blackledge defeated Roosevelt senior Jason Askew 6-0, 6-2 in the third singles match, while the second doubles team of Robby and David Neidlinger beat Roosevelt's Chris Long and Ben Weiner 6-1, 6-2.

The overall team decision came down to the first doubles match between Roosevelt's Adam Ristow and Matt Milcetich and Copley's Joe Simone and Cyrus Karimian.

After the Rough Riders won the first set 6-3, the Indians came back to win the last two sets 6-2, 6-2 to secure the Copley victory.

"I have to give our kids credit for coming back," said Copley coach Doug Limberg. "They did a good job to hang in there. It was a very well-played match. I think Kent looked very good as a team and they should look forward to a good season."

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