Amidst bad weather and exhausting gameplay, Jo Ota' 20 played his heart out at the 2018 Boys' Tennis CHSSA State Finals.
After a much improved season, the FVS Varsity Boys Tennis team rounded out the year placing fourth out of nine teams in the region. Only the top two finishers (in each position) in the region move on to compete at the state level. In FVS’s case, Junior Jo Ota ’20 was the only tennis athlete to qualify for state, competing in the #1 singles (top player on the team) position. Due to Ota’s first-place finish in regionals, he was to face off against a second-place regional finisher from a different region. This year, Ota’s first-round match was against a sophomore from Mullen High School. Play was set to begin on Oct. 18 at 9:00 a.m., however, wet weather conditions delayed players until 2 p.m.
After the long wait, both players’ nerves heightened as they readied to start the match. The feeling-out process took the majority of the first set. Ota’s opponent was very consistent and great defensively, but lacked a prominent offensive weapon. It is here that the discrepancy between the two players became evident. Ota had the presence of mind to stay patient and wait for his opportunities to show themselves. Ota immediately switched on his attack and took charge of the points and soon after, the entire match, winning 6-4, 6-3.
The following Friday morning, Ota faced off against one of the favorites to win state, senior Nick Lorenz of Discovery Canyon. Ota played well, frequently changing up his strategy as the match progressed to find some traction. Unfortunately, Lorenz’s play was overwhelming. A series of high, loopy, deep balls caused problems for Ota, giving Lorenz time to take control of the net. Although the scoreline (loss 6-0, 6-1) may imply otherwise, Ota gave a tremendous effort against one of the most elite tennis players in the state.
Ota’s next match was set for that Friday afternoon against Lorenz’s first victim, senior Brenden Arndt from Longmont High School. From the very start, Ota was firing on all cylinders, placing groundstrokes to the back corners with ease and forcing Arndt to either stay consistent or lose the point. Ota jumped out with a hefty early lead, which then forced his opponent to play more aggressively. Arndt’s main weapon, his forehand, was devastating when it came into play, but Ota realized that it wasn’t nearly consistent enough, and was happy letting Arndt overhit. Calmly, Ota controlled the remainder of the match, winning with a score of 6-3, 6-3.
The final match for Ota was played Saturday morning at 9 a.m. Exhausted from the two previous days of tennis, Ota was a bit lethargic. His opponent, senior Sam Nassif from the historically great Kent Denver, also seemed to be off to a slow start. Both athletes battled back and forth for every point, slowly but surely increasing their awareness, speed and play as the match progressed. Both players knew the importance of coming out on top. As the first set was nearing the end, both players were showing extreme fatigue. Unfortunately, Ota couldn’t hold serve at the 4-4 mark and lost the first set 6-4. It was at the close of that set that the demand on his body began to settle in. Although he never stopped working for every point, there was very little gas left in the tank, and Jo Ota ultimately lost the second set 6-3, ending his 2018 state performance.
Ota, who is also a starter on the FVS boys’ varsity soccer team, left the state tournament with many great memories and important experience. Perhaps the most important way he left was with his head held high. Having made it further at the state level than any of the FVS boys’ tennis players in recent history, Ota was happy with his accomplishment of tying for fifth place in the entire state. Now, with a set goal for next year’s final fight as a senior, Ota is hungrier than ever.