The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

Sports

June 11, 2014

Solid as a Brock

Geneva’s Ebersole in league of his own

Geneva junior Brock Ebersole was in a dogfight for a spot in the Eagles’ lineup for the better part of the 2013 season.

A year later, Ebersole has established himself as not only his team’s top player, but as the Star Beacon Ashtabula County Player of the year.

“I don’t think anybody’s at his level in the county,” Geneva coach Phil Dubsky said. “(Ebersole and Brent McFarland, arguably, the second-best player in the county) were dead even last year. (Brock) put a little distance between them he and Brent. Last year, they were  7-6 in the third set. This year, it’s more like 6-3, 6-1. This year, there’s a clear line of demarcation.”

That Ebersole pulled away is not so much the story as how he pulled away.

“He did it just by working,” Dubsky said. “He puts in so many hours on the court. He goes all the way to Cleveland and will play for three hours. Then he’ll come back and play for three more hours. At one point, he was starting to have troubles with his arm. We actually had to tell him to play less.”

“That was the first time I had to tell one of my players to practice less.”

That isn’t just an offseason routine. Ebersole will play as much as possible even during the season.

“He will go up to Brian Smallwood then come back and play me,” Dubsky said. “And I torture him. I run him all over the place.

“One of the things I judge my players on is how they play me. He’s actually won four sets from me. (Jacob Groce, the 2013 Player of the Year) won four sets from me in his career.”

That blue-collar attitude has put Ebersole in a leadership role with the Eagles.

“He sets the tone,” Dubsky said. “He sets the tone in practice. He sets the tone in the offseason. He’s got the whole team motivated right now. I can say whatever I want, but it doesn’t matter. When one of the kids says it, it makes a difference. We had nine players sign up for (St. John coach) Todd Nassief’s ladder program and that’s the most of anybody.”

For Ebersole, being the No. 1 player at Geneva holds responsibilities. Leading the team is but one of them.

“Everyone likes to say it’s a natural thing to go through,” Ebersole, the son of Kim and Jim Ebersole, said. “I think it’s more tradition than anything else. I just want to live up to the example of the people who led me. Jacob Groce and Ryan Huang were mentors. They really led me through my freshman year. They guided me.

“I really want to live up to that standard and do the same.”

Following in the footsteps of the greats who have gone before him means something to Ebersole.

“It’s awesome (to be Player of the Year),” he said. “It’s really an honor to be part of that group. I know a lot of history goes with it. A lot of hard work and history goes into (being Player of the Year at Geneva).

“It’s an honor.”

That leadership has extended to his one-time rival and has gone a long way toward making the pair a pretty formidable duo come the postseason.

“They really came together as friends this year,” Dubsky said. “That was a positive thing. I’m standing here at the courts and the two of them are practicing against two other guys. It’s 10 p.m. and they’re playing right now.”

Ebersole’s will to play anyone at just about any time and the fact that he works so hard makes his coach swell with pride.

“It makes it worthwhile (when your best players are your hardest workers),” Dubsky said. “That’s why you do it. You want to try and pass on what you’ve learned and let someone else have fun and enjoy the game the way you have. When someone puts that much into it, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Ebersole admits he tries to learn from whoever is willing to help him along the way. And those people have made a difference for him in every way possible.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at without Coach (Arnie) Bradshaw, Coach Dubsky, Coach (Alex) Stuetzer, Coach Nassief or Brian Smallwood. They’ve played a big role in my life and not just on the tennis courts.

“Coach Bradshaw got me to realize there’s more to life than just tennis. Tennis is not the most important thing. I’ve got to work to get my grades and be a better person. They’ve gotten me to be a more respectful young man. They teach me to respect and care for other people.

“I try to give credit where it’s due. There has been a lot of people who have helped me. Kevin Lillie has been a great help. Bruce Smallwood, Brian’s father, has helped a ton. The community, too. All the support and them coming to every home match is more incentive to win. When people come out and just get into it, it’s a fun time.”

And, of course, none of what Ebersole does would be remotely possible without his parents.

“It’s a huge role they’ve taken on, helping me get through the stages. Of course, the better you get, the more money it costs to go to clinics and lessons. I probably don’t say it enough, but I wouldn’t be here without them. It means a lot that they go to events and pay for everything. My grandparents, Nell and Kay Keener and Nancy Ebersole, too.

“There’s plenty of times I’ve come off the court destroyed and they will tell my day will come tomorrow. It may not be today, but my day will come tomorrow. They always remind me it’s not the end of the world (to lose). They tell me it’s just motivation to get out and work harder, it gives me something to work for the next time.”

There’s more to Ebersole working so hard for Dubsky, however, than just a student willing to learn from a master.

“It also gives me someone to play,” Dubsky said. “He wants to play. He will play all the time and I definitely know he wants to beat me. I tell the kids if they beat me, I’ll buy them a fancy steak dinner.”

Ebersole admits that steak dinner is one of his goals.

“I really want to be added to that short list of people who beat Coach,” he said. “That’s definitely a goal for me, especially working with him and seeing what he can do. Him playing the national tour, it gives me a confidence boost to know that I can hang with him.”

For his part, Dubsky sees the writing on the wall.

“He wants it bad,” Dubsky said. “He’s going to get it, too. Every once in a while he plays a set where he blows me away and I can see the future. When he gets his athletic ability under control, he’s going to blow me away. Until then, I’m going to beat him every chance I get.

“It’s inevitable he’ll beat me. He can go places I can no longer go. He just can’t sustain it for a long enough period or do it consistently enough.

“That will be one dinner I’ll be happy to buy.”

Earning that dinner is one of the few items left on an ever-shortening to-do list for Ebersole. With a bit more work, that list will only continue to shorten.

Ettinger is a freelance writer from Ashtabula. Reach him at bettinger@starbeacon.com.

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