Prepa­ra­tion key for champ

Andrew Vargh­ese wins city ten­nis ti­tle; aim­ing for pro­vin­cial cham­pi­onship

The Sudbury Star - - SPORTS - BEN LEE­SON THE SUD­BURY STAR

Andrew Vargh­ese had ev­ery rea­son to feel con­fi­dent as he stepped on the court at the Sud­bury In­door Ten­nis Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

Not only did the 15-year-old Lo-Ellen Park stu­dent en­ter his SDSSAA boys sin­gles fi­nal against Mac­don­ald-Cartier’s Calin Ranger as defending cham­pion at both the city and re­gional lev­els, as well as pro­vin­cial silver medal­list, but Vargh­ese felt bet­ter pre­pared than ever af­ter a win­ter of dili­gent train­ing with coach Paul Robert.

“Last year, I’d say I was what they call a pusher,” Vargh­ese said. “I used my ath­letic abil­ity to push the ball around the court and just get it back, but now, I have de­vel­oped my swing and I’m re­ally con­fi­dent in my shots, so I go for those, go for the cross-court fore­hands, the in­side-out fore­hands and re­ally crush it up on his back­hand with some hard shots.” He de­feated Ranger 10-1. “I knew I had a very high chance of win­ning it,” Vargh­ese said later. “So I went in con­fi­dent, knowing that I could beat this guy pretty eas­ily, and I did.”

He’ll be the odds-on favourite, too, at NOSSA in Blind River on May 24.

Vargh­ese, then in Grade 9, de­feated a Grade 12 open player in the fi­nal of last year’s NOSSA event to punch his ticket to OFSAA.

“That was a pretty big sur­prise,” he re­called. “I was happy with what I did.”

Af­ter a sec­ond-place fin­ish at provin­cials, he’s aim­ing for the top of the podium at this year’s tour­ney, to be held in Toronto June 4-6.

“The per­son who beat me last year has grad­u­ated, so I’m the first seed in the tour­na­ment,” Vargh­ese ex­plained. “I’ll be dis­ap­pointed in any­thing other than a win at OFSAA this year.”

His in­struc­tor, Robert, is cur­rently out for a cou­ple of months with an in­jury, but is still pro­vid­ing ad­vice.

“I have texted af­ter each game I have played and have told him the re­sults,” Vargh­ese said. “Ev­ery one, he knows.”

Vargh­ese also sent spe­cial thanks to his mother, Cizy Mathew, “for pick­ing up all the balls and driv­ing me to all the prac­tices.” “I ap­pre­ci­ate her efforts a lot.” There was a lot of ap­pre­ci­a­tion on the next court over, too, this time be­tween girls dou­bles part­ners Lo­gan Wal­tenbury and Ava Punkki­nen, also from Lo-Ellen, who se­cured a 10-3 win over So­phie Beauchamp and Ju­lia Roy from Col­lege Notre Dame.

Wal­tenbury, then with an­other part­ner, lost in last year’s fi­nal, while Punkki­nen’s for­mer pair­ing failed to reach the cham­pi­onship match.

“I was re­ally happy, be­cause this was the game we lost last year,” Wal­tenbury, 16, said with a smile. “This year, we came back and won, so I was re­ally happy about that.”

More time spent at prac­tice has cer­tainly helped – pre­vi­ously, Wal­tenbury ad­mit­ted, she would “just lob it and hope for the best,” while Punkki­nen needed to work on her serves.

The chem­istry be­tween the new team­mates, who are good friends off the court, has also gone a long way.

“We get along re­ally well,” Wal­tenbury said. “We work bet­ter to­gether, be­cause we don’t get mad at each other, so we don’t get as frus­trated. When you get frus­trated, you kind of play bad.”

“This year, we’re able to move on,” added Punkki­nen, 15. “We help each other out with that. If some­one makes a bad play or some­thing, we just con­tinue and pre­tend it didn’t hap­pen.”

Only a sec­ond-year player, she al­ready ranks ten­nis among her favourite sports, right be­hind vol­ley­ball.

“It’s just ex­cit­ing and it’s nervewrack­ing,” Punkki­nen said. “You never know who’s go­ing to win until it’s over.”

Lo-Ellen’s strong day con­tin­ued in girls sin­gles as Bri­anna Fazekas de­feated team­mate Lauren Fearn 11-9 through two sets in their fi­nal, and in mixed dou­bles, the LEP tan­dem of Bron­wyn Man­tle and Jeff Dodds de­feated Felix Tu­bin and Me­lanie Cloutier of Notre Dame 10-4.

In boys dou­bles, Liam Wil­liamson and Kevin Ranger from St. Charles Col­lege up­ended Dario Beljo and Em­mett Taille­fer from Lockerby Com­pos­ite 11-10 af­ter an 8-6 tiebreaker.

GINO DONATO/SUD­BURY STAR/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Andrew Vargh­ese of Lo-Ellen Park Sec­ondary School re­turns the ball dur­ing the boys high school city fi­nal against Calin Ranger of Mac­don­ald-Cartier on Thurs­day. Vargh­ese won.

BEN LEE­SON/THE SUD­BURY STAR/POST­MEDIA NET­WORK

Ava Punkki­nen, left, and Lo­gan Wal­tenbury from Lo-Ellen Park Sec­ondary School, pose for a photo af­ter win­ning the SDSSAA girls dou­bles cham­pi­onship at the Sud­bury In­door Ten­nis Cen­tre on Thurs­day.

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