GREENVILLE – For the first time in 11 years the Greenville boys tennis team will have four athletes compete at the Ohio High School Athletic Association district tournament.
Greenville seniors Noah Haupt and Craig Manges plus Austin Grote and Josh Smith all qualified as doubles teams for districts, which are set to begin on Thursday at the ATP Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
“All four of us are pretty close so to be able to start the season together and then end going to districts together, it’s pretty cool,” Manges said.
This is the first time since 2006 that Greenville has had four boys tennis players qualify for the district tournament. Eleven years ago the doubles teams of Jansen Hein and David Maurer plus Geoff Holmes and Patrick Clark qualified for districts.
The most players Greenville has ever sent to districts in a single year is five, a feat the Green Wave accomplished in 2003 and 1972.
“All four of us have been playing together since junior high so getting to see us all progress to the point of making it to districts this year means a lot to us, and I’m really excited to see how it plays out for all of us,” Grote said.
Haupt and Manges won the Division I sectional championship at Troy last week to advance to the district tournament.
“Beat Troy twice,” Haupt said, referencing the sectional semifinal and final matches. “There’s nothing better than that.”
Grote and Smith finished fourth in the sectional tournament and earned the final district qualifying spot.
“I think it’s been a great experience this whole year,” Smith said. “I think our doubles play this whole year has kind of proved to us that we belong in this tournament and kind of proven to other coaches around that Greenville tennis is for real.”
Grote and Smith played first doubles for Greenville throughout the regular season and compiled an 18-7 record together. Last year they went 18-5 together.
“There’s plenty of times where we don’t even need to say what we’re going to do, and we just know it, and we do it,” Grote said. “I feel like communication is pretty key when it comes to playing doubles, and I think we’ve really developed great communication over the years.”
Haupt and Manges were Greenville’s top two singles players throughout the regular season. Haupt went 15-7 at first singles while Manges was 19-3 in second singles.
While transitioning from singles to doubles for the OHSAA tournament does provide some challenges, both Greenville players said they feel confident about their abilities together.
“We know each other pretty well, know each other’s play style so we’re able to connect in that way pretty well,” Manges said.
Last year Haupt and Manges also teamed up together in the OHSAA tournament and qualified for districts. They lost last year’s district opener to Sycamore’s Alex Taylor, a defending state champion, and Noah Stern.
Having experience of competing at districts last year has Haupt and Manges more confident this season.
“I saw a lot of different play styles last year at districts that I’m not used to seeing in season here,” Haupt said. “So I feel like I’m better prepared for that.”
Going into the district tournament the Greenville athletes know that a series of tough opponents await them.
“I definitely feel like we’ll be out-experienced,” Grote said. “I know a lot of those Cincinnati teams and bigger Dayton schools they have been playing since well before high school. We’ve only had five years of experience. I definitely feel like that’s going to be a disadvantage, but I think that us being a doubles team we have probably better chemistry than other teams, and I feel like that’s really going to play a part in the match.”
Being seniors, all four Greenville athletes know any match could be their last for the Green Wave.
“Just knowing that every day could be our last is something that’s in the back of our minds and makes us want to play longer and not give up,” Smith said.
Kyle Shaner may be reached at 937-569-4316. Follow me on Twitter @KShanerAdvocate or get updates on Facebook by searching Darke County Sports or Advocate 360. For more features online go to dailyadvocate.com.