SAYBROOK TOWNSHIP — Ryan McClure’s Hollywood ending was almost cut short during Sunday’s Ashtabula County boys tennis tournament at St. John.
A member of Lakeside High School’s 2020 class, McClure missed out on his junior season due to a knee injury.
His senior season was then taken away by the COVID-19 pandemic.
Looking to make up for lost time on Sunday, McClure found himself on the wrong side of a match-point scenario in a semifinal against St. John’s Dave DiSalvatore. Facing a 40-15 deficit while trailing 5-4 in the second set, after losing the first, McClure dug deep and found another level.
He staved off elimination and carried that momentum to two more victories, capped off by a 6-1, 6-3 win over Conneaut’s JT Vendetti in the championship match.
“It’s truly amazing,” McClure said after the final match. “After missing my junior and senior year, I really felt like I had to come out and prove myself again. I mean I feel amazing.”
The tournament kicked off in the morning and lasted into the afternoon. Fifteen athletes competed in the high school version and six more battled it out in the junior high competition.
McClure, DiSalvatore, Vendetti and Geneva’s Tyler Perkins outlasted the rest of the group to reach the semifinals where McClure and Vendetti got the better of their opponents.
Perkins, a rising senior
who was looking to take on Geneva’s first-singles role, finished in fourth place after winning his first two matches then falling to Vendetti and DiSalvatore.
“I don’t think I played my best,” he said. “JT definitely played well, I had to move the ball a little bit more but we’ll work on that in practice.”
Perkins expressed excitement in taking over the first-singles spot as a senior and has his eyes set on districts.
“It’s a big step, for sure,” he said. “But I’ve learned a lot from my past teammates and my coaches, so hopefully I can lead the team next year.”
DiSalvatore, a rising senior who would have been the Heralds’ first-singles representative in the spring, bested
Perkins in the third-place match.
“[I] felt pretty good,” he said. “I haven’t played much this summer but you just have to give it your all and I think I did with Ryan. Ryan gave me a really good match.”
Vendetti, who was expecting to become the Spartans first-singles player, won his first two matches by a combined score of 12-2 then topped Perkins 6-1, 6-3 in the semifinals.
He finished in second place.
“I felt like overall I had a good day,” said Vendetti, a rising senior. “There were some things here and there that I can work on looking forward to next year, but I feel like overall I played my heart out.”
Vendetti was just as pleased with the tournament and how it played out.
“It felt great,” he said. “I’ve been around these people a lot all summer just preparing for this. And being able to have everyone here in a setting like this and just being able to compete against your friends is always a pleasure.”
St. John coach Todd Nassief had a similar reaction.
“I was real excited,” he said of the turnout. “All the top players came out which is really nice to see, so it was a lot of fun and I think it was really worthwhile to have.
“... The reason why I put on the tournament was I couldn’t imagine somebody taking away my senior year. If you can just imagine saying ‘I have no senior memories,’ and we had three seniors this year — [Ethan Butcher and Colin Priestap] from Jefferson and [McClure] from Lakeside — and I wanted to give them a chance to come out and have their senior year today.”
Isaac Riddell topped Jack Varckette in the junior high final.