By John Bombatch
XENIA — With at least a couple of his regular starters away on a senior trip, Xenia Christian coach Van Holloway had to shuffle up the Ambassadors tennis team’s lineup a bit. But after Friday’s closely contested match with neighboring Carrol, Holloway’s Ambassadors came away with a close 3-2 win on the Greene County Fairgrounds tennis courts.
“That’s what I’d hoped for,” Holloway said with a laugh. “We moved one of our first doubles players up to singles with the hope that we’d get those three wins at singles … and we did.”
Preston Surls didn’t have a senior commitment on Friday, and so Holloway moved him from his usual first doubles spot over to play first singles. Surls didn’t disappoint. He claimed a 6-1, 6-4 win over Carroll’s James Braun.
Xenia Christian sophomores Ethan Croucher and Jansen Smart claimed the other two singles wins, at second and third singles respectively. Croucher won over the Patriots Nick Gross 6-1, 6-3; Smart nabbed a 6-2, 6-1 win over Carroll’s Ignatious Brossart.
Carroll responded with two doubles wins.
At first doubles, senior David Austria and freshman phenom Jonah Carter earned a 6-1, 6-2 win over Xenia Christian’s Morgan Bryant and David Rose.
The Pats duo of Evan Wise and Marvin Quach won a 6-2, 6-0 battle over the Ambassadors’ Ally Meine-Luke Neikirk duo at second doubles.
After not having a team two seasons ago, Carroll continues to rebuild this season.
“Basically like our first season back last year, we have a lot of seniors who are playing for us from other sports,” Carroll assistant coach Andrew Farrell explained. “We have a freshman (Carter) who has a lot of club tennis experience and who will likely be our top player in the seasons ahead. And we have a solid junior in Nick Gross who’s doing well at second singles and is providing a lot of good leadership for this team.
“The biggest thing for us is the improvement that we are seeing. One, these guys are having fun. We’re learning a game they can play for years after high school. We’re 100 percent better than we were last season, and we’re 110 percent better than we were when we started out this season, so I’m very proud of how they’ve all come along.”
After their 3-2 win, the Xenia Christian players surprised coaches Van and Janell Holloway with a giant chocolate chip cookie that read “23 Thanks Van & Janell” in honor of the 23 years of coaching the duo have provided the Ambassadors program. The husband-wife pair plan on retiring from coaching after this season.
With their son Jason having graduated in 2013, and daughter Jesse graduating and moving on last season, the Holloways chose to coach one more season before retiring.
“It hasn’t really sunk in yet. It has been a good season, though,” Janell Holloway said. “I’m glad we did it one more year. … I’ll miss just getting to know the kids. I’m not a teacher at the school, so it was always nice to get to know the kids on our team each year. I’ll miss that.”
Xenia Christian hosts Sidney Lehman at 11 a.m. today on the Fairgrounds courts. They’ll then wrap up the regular season with 4:30 p.m. matches Monday (at Miamisburg) and Tuesday (at Beavercreek B).
Xenia Christian 3, Carroll 2
SINGLES: 1. Preston Surls (Xenia Christian) def. James Braun 6-1, 6-4; 2. Ethan Croucher (Xenia Christian) def. Nick Gross 6-1, 6-3; 3. Jansen Smart (Xenia Christian) def. Ignatious Brossart 6-2, 6-1.
DOUBLES: 1. David Austria/Jonah Carter (Carroll) def. Morgan Bryant/David Rose 6-1, 6-2; 2. Evan Wise/Marvin Quach (Carroll) def. Ally Meine/Luke Niekirk 6-2, 6-0.
Junior Varsity — Matt Sullivan/Sam Dodson (Carroll) def. Sammie Lomelin/Robin Wharton 8-6 pro set.