GENEVA — Isaac and Nathan Palinkas both admit they were a little in awe when they stepped out onto the courts of the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason to play in the boys state championship tournament a year ago.
As sophomores, they were the youngest doubles team in the Division II bracket.
Even though they were ousted in the first match, the experience was too much for them to not enjoy.
“It was nerve racking,” Issac Palinkas said. “But it was an incredible experience.”
His twin brother was quick to echo the sentiment.
“Those are special courts down there,” Nathan Palinkas said. “It can be a little intimidating, we were young, but it was a great experience. The first time stepping on the courts just to warm up was ... unreal.”
The Palinkas brothers will experience that feeling again this morning as for a second straight year they will step on a court representing Geneva in the 99th Ohio High School Athletic Association state tournament.
They will open against the team of senior Makul Sharma and junior Reece Quigley from Dayton Miami Valley School.
A year ago, the Palinkas twins were a third seed, but this year, but improved that mark to second out of the Akron district.
Aside from being a higher seed, they’re also a year older and have won’t have to deal as much with the shock of playing at the same venue used by professional players.
It would be easy to say having state tournament experience will help, but with elevated expectations often comes added pressure.
Not necessarily, Geneva tennis coach Alex Stuetzer said.
“I would say not exactly expectations are in place, but maybe some goals that we would like to reach down there,” said Stuetzer, who is not only their coach but also their grandfather. “The boys set goals and they try to achieve them. If we fall a little short, ‘OK, you set them and you’re striving for them.’”
Stuetzer believes his grandsons will perform.
“It will be good,” he said. “I think they’ll do better this year, they’ll play a little more relaxed because it is intimidating the first year you’re down there.”
Relaxing is something Issac Palinkas believes is the real key.
“I tend to play my best when I’m just having fun,” he said. “So, I’m going to go out there, enjoy it all and do the very best that I can. Obviously the goal is go as far as you can, and we want to go further than we did a year ago.”
During the season, the Palinkases enjoyed successful singles seasons for the Eagles team.
Issac Palinkas went 16-5 at first singles and Nathan Palinkas checked in 20-1 at second singles.
But even during the season, they knew they’d be on the same side of the net for another run at state,
so they set aside time to work on doubles play.
“Towards the end of the season, we definitely took some time to get back in doubles mode from singles,” Nathan Palinkas said.
Stuetzer said the boys have put in the work on doubles play, specifically spending time on closing, movement and serve placement.
Steutzer added he didn’t have a problem with them managing time away from singles to work on doubles.
“That was not hard because we let them set the goals,” Stuetzer said. “I don’t tell them what they’re going to do, what they’re not going to do until it comes right down to tournament time, then if there’s a decision I have to make as a coach, I tell them ‘I have that right as coach.’ But they’re pretty good, they talk to each other, they decide.”
The Palinkases began setting goals starting with getting out of sectionals. Once that was checked off, they wanted to get out of districts, then they wanted to see if they could get out as a top seed.
The didn’t quite happen, as they dropped the championship match in three sets, losing the final set 7-5.
Still, they accomplished the goal of getting back to Mason as a higher seed than the previous year.
Steutzer said the Palinkases have goals set at the state tournament, but wouldn’t divulge any more information.
“We do,” Stuetzer said with a smile. “The reality is you set the goal, you set the bar high and then you try to obtain high. If you fall short, it’s OK, you’ve given it your best shot and you’ve gone at it, you’ve had a good successful run at it. So I’m really proud of the boys no matter what happens.”