Joey Thomas, who retired in the third-place match at the district tournament the previous weekend, was one of only two freshmen to reach the Division I state tournament at the Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center.
The ending wasn't what Joey Thomas wanted, but the final match of his freshman season still came at the state tournament and left him with plenty of reasons to believe that he can reach Columbus again.
Thomas, who retired in the third-place match at the district tournament the previous weekend, was one of only two freshmen to reach the Division I state tournament at the Ohio State University Varsity Tennis Center.
Perhaps slowed by the lingering effects of his injury, he was a step behind Gahanna Lincoln senior Canyon Teague in a 6-4, 6-0 loss. Teague, who reached the state semifinals before falling to eventual champion Jacob Dunbar of Cloverleaf and finishing fourth, was in control against his younger opponent and showed the value of four years of varsity experience in finishing Thomas off in the second set after a back-and-forth battle in the first.
After pushing Teague to the limit in the first set, Thomas ran out of fuel in the second and allowed multiple breaks of service. After winning a Federal League and sectional championship, his good fortune seemed to evaporate the past two weekends, beginning with a 7-5, 6-2 loss to eventual state runner-up Aaron Sandberg of Walsh Jesuit in a semifinal match at the district tournament in Oberlin.
Following his battle with Sandberg, Thomas trailed St. Ignatius' Nathan Griffin 3-2 in the first set of the third-place match when he was forced to default with an injury. He was the lone Jackson player to reach the state tournament after fellow freshman Jake Zalenski lost a qualifying match at the district tournament, 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 to Hudson's Steven Boslet.
Thomas and Cincinnati Sycamore's Alex Taylor were the only freshman among the 16 players to qualify for the state tournament. With seven seniors among the final 16, Thomas' run in the tournament leaves him as one of the early favorites to make a return trip to the state capital next season. As one of three freshmen to start in singles competition for the Polar Bears in 2013, he may not be making that trip alone next year.
Reach Andy at 330-899-2872 or andy.harris@TheSuburbanite.com.
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