This story originally appeared in the May 19, 2010 edition of the Press.
Avon Lake senior Nick Trzeciak and junior Ben Troyer spent the regular season as the Shoremen’s second and first singles players, respectively.
However, first-year coach Adam Slabodnick had other plans for them.
Working them as a doubles team during the summer, Slabodnick unveiled his new duo at the Southwestern Conference Boys Tennis Tournament two weeks ago, where they lost their very first match and finished fifth out of eight teams.
Undaunted, Slabodnick kept his two upperclassmen paired together for last weekend’s Division I Sectional Tournament at Oberlin College, even though their low finish at the SWC’s prompted them to go unseeded.
However, when the three-day sectional tournament came to a close Saturday, it was the unseeded Troyer and Trzeciak who were left standing in everyone’s wake, winning the doubles championship with a 5-0 overall performance.
Troyer and Trzeciak upset the top two seeds of the tournament to win the championship, including top-seeded Sean and Collin Kloock of Olmsted Falls, 4-6, 6-3, 6-0, in the finals.
“I’m just really happy, especially for Nick,” Slabodnick said. “Nick’s brother (Alex Trzeciak) won a sectional singles championship during his senior year, reached state and went on to play in college, and Nick’s had to play in his shadow for a long time. Now, it’s Nick’s time to shine, and I couldn’t be prouder of them.”
The win by Troyer and Trzeciak keeps alive a streak of three straight years where a Shoremen tennis player won a sectional title. They join the doubles team of Robby Clayton and Adam Gross, which won the sectional title last season, and Alex Trzeciak, who won a singles sectional title two seasons ago and eventually reached the state tournament.
The Avon Lake champs are among a list of three doubles teams and two singles players from the SWC that reached next week’s Division I District Tournament, which begins Thursday at 9 a.m. at Oberlin College and concludes Saturday at Oberlin College. The district draw was released on Monday.
However, the story of the tournament was the rise of the unheralded Troyer and Trzeciak.
“It’s huge because we went into this unseeded and no thought we’d do anything here,” Troyer said. “So, we came in and knocked off the top two seeds. Now, we can look back and say we did this and we can build off of this for next week.”
In order to guarantee a spot in the final four, Troyer and Trzeciak had to get through second-seeded Abhi Ramachandran and Brian Gottfried from Westlake in the quarterfinal round. The Westlake duo defeated Troyer-Trzeciak in their doubles debut in the first round of the SWCs in three sets.
This time, though, it was the Shoremen duo who gained a measure of revenge against their Westlake rivals, 7-5, 6-2.
“We felt that the best chance to make it through districts was going through them,” Slabodnick said. “I didn’t want them to try to get through the Kloock Brothers that early. It was kind of a gamble, but it paid off. After they beat us at the SWC, it was nice to gain a measure of revenge.”
Trzeciak said playing them to three sets two weeks ago was a big factor in what they were able to accomplish.
“Their serves were very tricky in that first match, and I think as it went on, we got used to it,” he said. “That definitely helped us in that second match.”
Troyer and Trzeciak knocked off St. Edward’s Chas Gustafson-Jeffrey Williams, 6-3, 6-1, in the semifinals to set up the championship clash with the Kloocks.
After the Kloocks survived a tough first set, the Shoremen duo stayed confident.
“The first set was pretty close, and we knew that if we could hold our serves, we could definitely break the weaker of the two brothers,” Trzeciak said. “We just kept going and we knew we could do it if we could play our best.”
Added Troyer: “We just played really tight in that first set. We told ourselves, if we can get this next set, we can pull this off in three. They key was not looking back and just focusing on the task at hand. The only thing you can change is the point right in front of you, and that was our mentality.”
All in all, Slabodnick was very pleased with how his young team performed.
“(Freshman) Mike Nock was the only other one to win his first round match, but he lost to (No. 4 seed) Richie Karban (from Elyria) in straight sets,” he said. “Despite that, I’m really excited about the future. I’ll have Ben back as our No. 1 singles player, and all the rest have seen good tennis this season and gotten great experience. They’re pumped for next year. Now, the goal is to go after Westlake for the top of the SWC.”
Sophomore Jake Auble lost to Avon No. 1 singles player Marcus Schneider, 6-4, 6-4, in the first round. Schneider was the only Avon singles player who won in the first round.
Slabodnick is also getting his doubles team ready for districts, and the chance to qualify for state.
“Being a No. 1 seed going into districts was the best we could hope and ask for,” he said. “We’ll see what kind of draw we get and what teams we’ll see. The best opportunity you have of moving on is coming in as a sectional champ, but you still have to play to win. No one is giving you anything free. You have to go take it from them.”
Troyer isn’t ready to stop winning now.
“We’re 7-1 as a doubles team and won our last seven matches in a row,” he said. “We’re two matches from state. We’ve just got to keep doing what we have been. At this point, we’ve done it before, can we do it again? We’ve had wins where we mow someone down in straight sets, wins where we’ve come from behind, and wins where we won in straight sets, but they were close. We feel we can pull anything off. It’s just a matter of saying, ‘We can do it, and now, we’re gonna do it.’”