Polar Bears win two singles titles and both doubles finals to win the Federal League Tournament and overall championship
NORTH CANTON Jackson High School's first singles player, Danny Thomas, had seen worse tennis conditions than the 40-degree, cold rain-spritzed Saturday that confronted the Federal League boys tennis tournament at Hoover High School.
"I've played in snow before," the Jackson senior said after playing in just long sleeves. "With these conditions I just told myself, 'Be patient and once you get that ball — attack.'
"That was my mindset the whole time."
Thomas and Polar Bears embraced the cold and accepted the challenges before them. Using Pro scoring instead of the best 2-of-3 sets due to conditions, Thomas knocked off Lake senior and reigning Federal League, Stark County and Repository Player of the Year Dawson Drummond 8-3. Jackson's Jason Tucker topped Hoover's Brock Meadows 8-4 for the title at No. 3 and the Polar Bears won both doubles championships to capture the tournament title and overall Federal League championship.
Jackson's junior combinations of Bobby Thomas and Alex Drewes at first doubles and Michael Stefan and Michael Schoeppner at second doubles put the Polar Bears on top early with victories. Thomas and Drewes downed Green's Adam Moresea and Dylan Westmeyer 8-5 and Stefan and Schoeppner rolled over Lake's Joel Madenfort and Aiden Stalker 8-0 to allow them to hustle from Walsh University to see the Danny Thomas-Drummond match.
"We won both doubles and they looked pretty good,"said Jackson head coach Louie Thomas, Danny's older brother. "Doubles are the story of our team. I think they gave up five games. You lock up two doubles, you're (good)."
There were no locks for Jackson at first or second singles. Drummond came in 5-0 in league play, was 6-0 a year ago and hadn't lost in league play since he was a sophomore. Hoover sophomore Jacob Wood was 6-0 at second singles. While Wood outlasted the Polar Bears' Arjun Shanmugan 8-4 for his victory, Drummond struggled with his serve from the start against Thomas.
"I wasn't really feeling my slice serve," said Drummond, a Walsh recruit. "When I don't feel it, then I go to my flat (serve) and I wasn't feeling that either. It just kind of put me in a tough position with my serve."
Thomas led 2-1 and then broke twice in a row to make it 6-1 by holding his serve.
"With the wind coming east-west, that slice kind of looked like a flat serve and came right up to me," Thomas said. "The goal when you play Pro sets is just get a good start. A fast start. Hopefully you keep it going."
"He didn't make many mistakes, and I did," Drummond said. "He made way less unforced errors."
The two could play again next week in a rescheduled match. But it was a big win for Thomas. Not only did it come against the league's top player, it came heading into Sunday's sectional tournament draw.
"It's kind of a big deal to get the monkey off his back," Louie Thomas said. "They've always kind of gone back and forth. But it's a nice win for Danny, to let him know he's the man. He deserves it, he's worked his butt off."
Reach Jim at 330-580-8336 or firstname.lastname@example.org
On Twitter: @jthomasREP