The Ithaca Little Red Boy’s Tennis team tallied the 15th win of its undefeated season, as it captured the Section IV title, on its home courts, in commanding fashion.
In the later stages of 2018, the Little Red was left searching for a new identity, after 14-year Head Coach Arthur Falkson stepped away from the program. Falkson had crafted a legacy of winning at Ithaca, something that was left hanging in the air upon his departure.
Filling in for the departed Falkson is Michael Bryant, the former coach of the Lansing Bobcats. Bryant, while making the team his own, carried on that legacy of success into the 2019 season.
Bryant’s Little Red stormed past opposing teams all season long, posting a perfect 13-0 record through the regular season, winning the STAC West Division title with a 7-0 win over the Horseheads Blue Raiders.
A perfect regular season is nothing to overlook, but the Little Red was not satisfied with just a division title, wanting to capture the overall STAC championship.
In the first of two opponents, the Little Red took down Chenango Forks, the STAC East Division champions, 7-0 in the conference semifinal matchup. Following the semi-final victory, the team battled with the Vestal Golden Bears in the Championship, routing the Bears with another 7-0 decision.
The blanking of Vestal came as no surprise, as the Little Red, with the win, brought their string of consecutive 7-0 victories to 10 straight matches, dating back to April 8, against Owego Free Academy. Of the 15 victories posted by the Little Red, 11 of the 15 wins were by a score of 7-0, with three matches being scored 6-1 and one match, the closest of the season, being 5-2 over Jamesville-Dewitt of Section III.
With another STAC championship to its credit, Ithaca played host to three other schools - Horseheads, Corning, and Union-Endicott - to battle for a Section IV championship.
In the singles matches, Ithaca was represented by Jerry Qian and David Riccio, who entered the tournament on different sides of the bracket.
Qian advanced past Corning’s Nick Flemmer in three sets to advance his way to the semifinal round. Riccio would also advance to the next round dominating Corning’s Sacha Mayolet 6-0, 6-0.
In the semifinals, both Riccio and Qian would advance to meet each other in an all-Ithaca final after both topping Horseheads contenders. Riccio defeated Evan Zhou 7-6, 6-4, and Qian bested Abhishek Akula 7-6, 6-3.
The final matchup went the way of Riccio as he topped his teammate in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0.
In the highly anticipated doubles competition, the pair of teams representing the Little Red cruised through the opening round of play. Aidan Campbell and Felix Shi, who were paired together for the NYSPHSAA tournament last season, dropped one game in defeating the team from Horseheads 6-0, 6-1. Joining Campbell and Shi in the semifinal round was the team of Dennis Kang and Quinn Tonole, who bested the team from Union-Endicott 6-0, 6-1.
The semifinals saw the two Little Red teams split from the same bracket, as Campbell and Shi advanced to the finals with a 6-3, 6-0 win over the team from Corning, while Kang and Tonole were stifled by Horseheads’ second doubles team of Cameron McGary and Kevin Reasons, 6-4, 2-6, 6-3.
The championship matchup saw Campbell and Shi barely miss a beat as they separated themselves from McGary and Reasons, winning in straight sets, 6-1, 6-1.
The day wasn’t over for Kang and Tonole, as the pair battled back, topping Corning 2-6, 7-6, 6-2, to earn the Little Red a third-place finish.
With the final matches completed, the Little Red stood atop the competition with 70 points, well ahead of second place Horseheads with 44 points.
With their finishes in the brackets, Riccio, Qian, and the team of Campbell and Shi earned automatic qualifying to this weekend’s state qualifying tournament in Binghamton, while Kang and Tonole will further compete for the last chance spot into state qualifying.
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