Lane Mansfield is in mid-serve in this file photo. Mansfield was the only Cougar to advance to the semi-finals at the WBL tourney on Thursday. (TB file photo)
Lane Mansfield is in mid-serve in this file photo. Mansfield was the only Cougar to advance to the semi-finals at the WBL tourney on Thursday. (TB file photo)
By Jim Cox
Times Bulletin Correspondent
LIMA — Thursday wasn’t a good day for Van Wert in the Western Buckeye League tennis tournament at UNOH.
Sophomore Lane Mansfield, at first singles, was the only Cougar to survive the quarterfinals. Sadly, second doubles player and team leader Eli Alvarez, the only senior on the team, re-injured his shoulder, forcing that duo to forfeit its quarterfinal match. Another low point was at third singles, where sophomore Brandon Amstutz, the third seed, was upset by sixth-seeded St. Marys junior Justin Nedderman.
Celina and Shawnee will battle it out Saturday for the championship. All five Shawnee entries (two one-seeds, three two-seeds) and four Celina entries (three one-seeds and a four seed) made it through to the semifinals. In the regular season Celina was first and Shawnee second. The league title is a combination of regular season and tournament places.
Mansfield cruised through his first set against the sixth-seeded senior from Defiance, Nolan Parsons, 6-2. Mansfield suffered a momentary lapse in the second set, falling behind 3-0, but rallied to win that one, too, 6-4. On Saturday, Mansfield will play second-seeded and defending WBL champion Alex Schroeder from Ottawa-Glandorf.

Second singles promised to be an even matchup with fifth-seeded Cougar Eric Yeung going up against fourth-seeded Brandon Hemfling from Ottawa-Glandorf. Both are juniors. Yeung came out on fire, blasting away to a 4-0 first set lead, hitting winners from all angles. It didn’t last.
Hemfling stopped making errors, and his impeccable net game began to take its toll. Although Yeung held on to win the first set 6-4, Hemfling dominated the second, 6-2. The two battled on even terms in a well-played third set, with Hemfling getting the first service break in the seventh game to take a 4-3 lead. With the game score at 5-4, Hemfling serving for the match, Yeung committed four straight unforced errors to end it.
Amstutz had one of those days that all tennis players dread. After winning the first set 6-4 against Nedderman, it all came apart for the heavily-favored lefty. An epidemic of unforced errors gave the steady, solid ball-striking Roughrider the second set, 6-2 and a 5-2 lead in the third. Amstutz temporarily righted the ship to tie it at 5-5, but Nedderman took the next two games and won 7-5.
Van Wert’s first doubles team of sophomore Nick Etter and freshman Gabe Rollins, eighth seeds, were the only Cougars not to get an automatic berth into the quarterfinals. They first took out the ninth-seeded Wapakoneta sophomore pairing of Andrew Gibson and Alex Steinbaugh 6-0, 6-4. There were some anxious moments in the second set, however. It was 4-4 before some strong serving by Etter put the Cougars up 5-4, and they won the next one, too, thanks largely to unforced errors by the Redskins.
In the quarterfinals, the Etter/Rollins team ran up against the top-seeded and undefeated senior team from Celina, Isaac Elston and Kris LeJeune. It is evidence of the talents of Elston and LeJeune that the Cougars played good tennis but still lost 6-1, 6-2. The Elston/LeJeune team is the defending league champion at first doubles.
Van Wert’s second doubles team of Alvarez and junior Kory Schlatter, the sixth seeds, ran up against third-seeded seniors from Shawnee, Chris Mart and Troy Brinkman. Mart/Brinkman won a long and hard-fought first set 6-3, and they led 2-1 in the second when Alvarez was unable to continue. It was a heartbreaking ending to Alvarez’s high school tennis career.
In the backdraw (consolation) competition, the players who didn’t survive the quarterfinals battle it out Thursday and Saturday for additional team points, playing pro sets to eight to determine places five through ten. Unfortunately for Van Wert, the injury to Alvarez prevented the Cougars’ second doubles team from competing in the backdraw, thus putting them automatically in tenth place.
The other three entries for the scarlet-and-grey, however, went on to win their first backdraw matches and will play Saturday for more team points. Etter/Rollins, in fact, pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the tournament, nipping the fourth-seeded Ottawa-Glandorf team of Trevor Kuhlman/Connor Kuhlman 8-6.
Summary of Van Wert results — championship rounds:
First singles: Lane Mansfield (VW) over Nolan Parsons (D) 6-2, 6-4.
Second singles: Brandon Hemfling (OG) over Eric Yeung (VW) 4-6, 6-2, 6-4.
Third singles: Justin Nedderman (SM) over Brandon Amstutz (VW) 4-6, 6-2, 7-5.
First doubles: Nick Etter/Gabe Rollins (VW) over Andrew Gibson/Alex Steinbaugh (W) 6-0, 6-4. Isaac Elston/Chris LeJeune (Cel) over Etter/Rollins 6-1, 6-2.
Second doubles: Chris Mart/Troy Brinkman (Sh) over Eli Alvarez/Kory Schlatter 6-3, 2-1 (Default).
Summary of Van Wert results — backdraw (consolation) first round:
Second singles: Yeung (VW) over Jordan Dodds (W) 8-1.
Third singles: Amstutz (VW) over Nathan Lutz (Cel) 8-4.
First doubles: Etter/Rollins (VW) over Trevor Kuhlman/Connor Kuhlman (OG) 8-6.