If you're searching for a personification of the word "heart," look no further than Drew Barclay.
Barclay poured his heart and soul onto the courts of Magnificat High School on Wednesday. Long after his Senior Day ceremony, and long after his teammates completed victories over St. Edward, Barclay finally ousted his foe, one of the best young tennis players in Northeast Ohio.
Barclay's victory finished off the Wildcat's 5-0 sweep of the Eagles, but more importantly, it showcased the incredible heart and grit of the Saint Ignatius tennis program.
With Arjun Brahmbhatt and Nate Day out, Barclay anchored the Tennis Cats at the No. 1 singles spot. His opponent: Dean Ali. The freshman has burst onto the high school tennis scene, earning a number of impressive victories for the Eagles. Ali has held the No. 1 singles spot since March for St. Edward.
Riding an emotional high after the Senior Day festivities, Barclay carded a 6-3 victory in set one. But his foe rebounded in the second stanza. Ali captured a 6-3 win in the second set to force a tiebreaker.
In high school tennis, the third set is typically played to 10. However, this battle of rivals was no ordinary rubber match.
Ali gained traction through the tiebreaking set. Momentum was clearly on his side, as the freshman gradually built his lead. Ali took his foe to the brink, assembling a 9-7 lead. But then Barclay clawed his way back into the game. The deliberate senior chipped away at the deficit and forced it into extra points.
As the other matches ended, Barclay's teammates began to watch the spectacle and cheer him on. After endless volleys and battles, Barclay finally won the day. The senior walked away with a 15-13 victory in the tiebreaker, an epic ending to an unforgettable match.
"I'm so proud of Drew. To fight and get the win today on senior day was amazing," said Head Coach Bobbe Bennett. "He has really stepped up into the No. 1 spot and played some high-level tennis."
Barclay's fellow senior, Jack McNally, took the stage at No. 2 doubles earlier in the afternoon. McNally encountered less resistance in the contest. Playing in his first singles match of the year, McNally played wonderfully.
The senior showed no signs of stress in his first singles contest. McNally rolled past his foe in the first set, 6-1. He showcased his veteran attitude in the second set, rolling past an Eagles freshman, 6-0.
"Jack played tough for his first time playing singles this year," Bennett said.
Arul Mehta achieved a coveted "double bagel" in the No. 3 singles spot. The sophomore defeated his St. Edward foe, a senior for the Eagles, 6-0, 6-0.
The Wildcats rolled the dice in the No. 1 doubles spot, combining a new pair – Thomas Deucher and Kai Vesikallio. Deucher typically plays with McNally, but the senior occupied the No. 2 singles spot for senior day. The new pair played as if they'd always been playing together. Deucher and Vesikallio rolled past senior duo Michael Ohliger and Altan Dinchman of St. Edward in the first set, 6-1. Ohliger and Dinchman played better in the second stanza, but Deucher and Vesikallio still earned the W with a 6-3 triumph.
The No. 2 doubles spot featured a combo that's now respected and revered – Kenny Li and Michael Nock. The sophomore-freshman duo showed no fear in facing a more veteran pair – juniors Evan Oliger and Jack Dougher. Li and Nock displayed their knack for finding weak spots in the opposing duo throughout the contest. Li and Nock tallied a 6-1 win in the first set and commanded a 6-0 victory in the second set.
"Our doubles stayed solid," Bennett said. "They have really become two spots we can depend on, especially the No. 2 doubles with Kenny and Michael."
All in all, it was a good day for the Wildcats.
"St. Ed's is a scrappy team that has a really good coach," Bennett said. "I'm happy with our effort today."
Following the triumph, the Wildcats will take some time off for Easter break. The team's next scheduled match is on Monday vs. Green in the second round of the OTCA State Tournament. The next match will then be on Thursday, April 25 at Solon. Sectionals are just around the corner, so the Wildcats will look to hit the home stretch with a victory.