By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
LIMA — Lane Mansfield was seeded third and finished fourth in first singles at the Western Buckeye League tennis tournament. That doesn’t begin to tell the story of the Van Wert sophomore’s Saturday contests. As for his team, the Cougars finished a disappointing sixth in the tournament. That placing, in combination with their fourth-place finish during the regular season, gives the Cougars a fifth-place league finish.
Celina and Shawnee share the WBL title, the Bulldogs winning the regular season but finishing second in the tournament, and the Indians vice versa. On Saturday, Celina took first places at second singles, first doubles, and second doubles. Shawnee won at first singles and third singles.
Mansfield was the only non-senior to make the semifinals in first singles. His semifinal confrontation with defending champion and second-seed Alex Schroeder was undoubtedly the best match of the tournament. Mansfield would’ve had to be at his absolute best to win this one — and he was, for the first set and almost, almost, the entire second set. The first set was full of long rallies, long games, and incredible shot-making by both players. Trailing 5-4, Mansfield put it all together to win the next three games and the set, 7-5.
The hard-hitting Cougar was equally impressive in the second set, breaking Schroeder’s serve to take a 5-4 lead and serve for the match. At that point, his powerful serve let him down. He double-faulted three times in the game, allowing the Titan to tie it at 5-5. The set eventually went to 6-6 and a tie-breaker, won by Schroeder 7-2. Schroeder dominated the third set 6-1, sending him on to the championship match.
Though both Mansfield and Schroeder are powerful ball strikers, the Cougar sophomore hits it a bit harder. He had five aces in the match, while his opponent had none. However, Mansfield also had 14 double faults, Schroeder only two.

In the third place match, Mansfield faced fourth-seeded Celina senior Aaron Seibel, who had just lost 6-0, 6-2 to the top seed, Jason Barton of Shawnee. That short match clearly left Seibel with a lot more in the tank than there was in the tank of Mansfield, who had beaten Seibel 7-5, 6-2 during the regular season. Seibel, who hits the ball with only slightly less authority than does Mansfield, is a marvelously consistent returner who makes his opponent earn every point. The Cougar sophomore hit several magnificent winners, but couldn’t match Seibel’s consistency, losing 6-4, 6-2. Again, Mansfield out-aced his opponent (3-1), but also had more double faults (10-3).
Thus, Mansfield finished fourth in the tournament, earning Van Wert six team points on the 12-10-8-6-4-3-2-1-0-0 scoring system. In the meantime, Schroeder was losing the first singles championship to Barton by the odd score of 6-2, 0-6, 6-0. It may be that Schroeder’s grueling semifinal match took its toll in that third set.
In second singles, fifth-seeded Van Wert junior Eric Yeung won his backdraw (consolation) bracket — and fifth place in the tournament — by topping the sixth seed, Defiance’s aggressive but error-prone junior lefty, Rodrigo Luque-Cuesta, 8-2. All backdraw matches are decided by one “pro set” to eight. Yeung’s fifth place earned four team points for the Cougars.
In third singles, third-seeded Cougar sophomore Brandon Amstutz had another day where he was plagued with a ton of unforced errors, losing to ninth-seeded Elida sophomore Tony Savage 9-7. (When playing a pro set, the winner must win by at least two games, though if the players are knotted at 8-8, they play a normal tie-breaker.) Amstutz’s sixth place finish was worth three team points.
Van Wert’s eighth-seeded first doubles team of sophomore Nick Etter and freshman Gabe Rollins lost to Defiance’s sixth-seeded pairing of senior Evan Bates and junior Andrea Lazzarin 8-4. Thus, Etter/Rollins took sixth place, earning the Cougars three team points.
Because of a shoulder injury to Van Wert senior Eli Alvarez, the second doubles team of Alvarez and junior Kory Schlatter was unable to compete Saturday. However, their eighth place finish earned one team point for Van Wert. The Cougar pair had lost in the quarterfinals on Thursday. (The Kenton and Bath second doubles teams didn’t make it to the quarterfinals, losing in the “play-in” round, thus receiving no team points.)
Summary of Van Wert Saturday results:
First singles: Alex Schroeder (OG) over Lane Mansfield (VW) 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1. Aaron Seibel (Cel) over Mansfield 6-4, 6-2.
Second singles: Eric Yeung (VW) over Rodrigo Luque-Cuesta 8-2.
Third singles: Tony Savage (E) over Brandon Amstutz (VW) 9-7.
First doubles: Evan Bates/Andrea Lazzarin (D) over Nick Etter/Kory Schlatter (VW) 8-4.
Tournament team scores: Shawnee 54, Celina 46, Ottawa-Glandorf 32, Kenton 22, Elida 21, Van Wert 17, Defiance 16, St. Mary’s 16, Wapakoneta 6, Bath 0.