Aurora has impressive outing at SL tennis tournament

Steve Batko
Correspondent
Julianna Malinowski

Julianna Malinowski has already nabbed first-team All-Suburban League honors in girls tennis and now can add first-team honors in the spring to her impressive resume as Aurora’s boys squad played well in the Suburban League tournament.

Placing third in the tournament with 28 points, Aurora competed with the league’s powers.

Regular-season champion Richfield Revere captured the tournament team title 38-32 over Medina Highland, the host of the SL American Conference tournament Saturday.

Coach Derek Kohanski saw plenty of strong play from his club, including doubles play as well as in singles action, where all three Greenmen placed in the top two or three spots.

Malinowski and Mitchell Curtis led the charge with runner-up finishes while freshman Vincent Cannata made his league tournament debut and placed third overall.

“As a team, we finished in third place and we were fourth in the regular season [3-3], so to climb up one spot is a tremendous accomplishment,” said Kohanski.

“It’s very rare to do and it really shows how much better our players have gotten as the season has gone on,” Kohanski added.

In the final overall combined league standings, Revere won with 16 points, followed by Highland (14), Aurora (11), Copley (11), and Kent (8). 

Malinowski stamped a big runner-up finish at third singles for Aurora.

In a thrilling semifinals battle, Malinowski registered a 3-6, 6-1, 6-2 victory over second seed Collin Spittle, of Highland. Spittle is a veteran senior who beat the Aurora standout in the regular season.

Facing Revere top seed Sam Lazbin in the finals, Malinowski fell 6-0, 6-0.

“Julianna came in as the third seed and she won an easy first-round match (6-0, 6-0) and then played one of the best matches of the season,” said Kohanski.

“She went up against Highland’s number three [Spittle] in the semis and in the regular season, Julianna lost [7-5, 6-3] to him in a tough straight-set match,” Kohanski said. 

This time was different for Malinowski.

“After dropping the first set, she turned it around and dominated him in the last two sets,” said Kohanski. “Although she lost in the championship, it was a great tournament for her.”

At the tough second singles spot at Highland, Aurora had Curtis, who came in top-seeded in the challenging field.

Mitchell Curtis, Aurora tennis

“Mitchell was in second place and he suffered his first league defeat of the spring,” said Kohanski, who was pleased with the fantastic regular season that Curtis had.

After a first-round bye, Curtis triumphed over Kent’s Ethan Jenkins (placed fourth overall) 6-4, 6-2 before suffering a hard-fought finals loss to Revere standout Ben Lazbin, the second seed. Lazbin won 6-4, 2-6, 6-2.

“Mitchell earned the number one seed after going undefeated in conference play and lost a tough three-set match against Revere’s senior at second singles,” said Kohanski. "It was a tough way to end conference play, but Mitchell had an outstanding conference season, going 7-1 overall.”

Cannata impressed by taking third-place in the difficult and rugged first singles position at Highland. It was a great experience for the talented Greenmen rookie.

The fourth seed, Cannata won 6-2, 6-2 over Kent’s Patrick Gallagher, who ended up finishing fifth overall. Cannata was upended in the semifinals by the tourney champion Elijah Hadler, of Revere. Hadler won 6-0, 6-3.

“Vincent lost to the eventual champion Elijah Hadler,” said Kohanski.

“In the match for third place, Vincent defeated the number one singles player from Copley, whom he had lost to earlier in the week,” said Kohanski. “It was one of his best matches of the season.”

On April 26, Cannata lost to Copley’s Akisa Kayashima 7-5, 6-2 in Copley’s 3-2 win over Aurora.

However, in the third-place match in Highland, Cannata had a superb 6-3, 7-6 decision over Kayashima.

The first doubles team of Aidan McNamara and Adam Macek seized fourth-place at the tourney for Aurora.

With a brilliant first-round win over the fourth-seeded team from Highland, the Greenmen duo had one of the largest upsets in the tourney with a 6-4, 7-5 victory over Mike Alcini and Max Mendel.

The Aurora pair then fell 6-0, 6-4 to the top seed and eventual champs from Revere.

“Coming in as the five seed, the odds were against them from the beginning,” said Kohanski of his doubles team. “They drew Highland’s first doubles team in the first round and they came out with incredible energy and focus and never let up.

“Despite losing to Highland in the regular season, they were confident throughout and won the match in straight sets,” he added. “It was easily the best win of their season and probably the biggest upset of the tournament.”

In second doubles action at Highland, the Greenmen combination of Ellie Milano and Morgan Viant took sixth place overall.

“A fifth seed, the girls had two tough match-ups and they fought hard, but came up short,” said Kohanski, who was elated to get tournament experience for so many athletes. 

In the team standings at Highland, the Greenmen finished ahead of Copley (25), Kent Roosevelt (21), Tallmadge (17), and Barberton (14). 

Aurora looks to close out the regular season behind positive momentum with several matches before competing at the sectional tournament set for May 10-13 at Solon Community Park.