Warner nets league tennis title
By John Bernhardt
The Margaretville tennis team finished their season on a high note. After nailing down a Delaware League co-championship, on Tuesday the Blue Devils sent their ace, James Warner, to the court to battle Roxbury’s Josh Riley for the league’s individual title. Warner outdueled Riley 6-4, 6-4 to take the title.
“When James plays well he’s there not just physically but mentally,” explained Margaretville coach Jim Owdienko. “I saw that James was locked in during warm-ups. James was consistent and patient. That’s the trademark of his game,” Owdienko added.
In Riley, Warner had a worthy foe. Riley came to the title match with a new trick up his sleeve. “Josh is a good ball striker,” explained Owdienko. “He showed up that day with a really strong first serve. A new wrinkle. It was something we hadn’t seen before. Fortunately, we’ve been working hard on returning hard serves in practice, and James met the challenge.”
Warner took his game to Bainbridge on Thursday for the Section Four Class C/D Sectionals. The DL Champion made some noise. Warner drew a bye in the first round then toppled Kevin Koerts in two sets, 6-2, 6-2, to advance to the quarterfinals.
Next up, Warner battled the hometown hero, Ben Gonzalez, from Bainbridge-Guildford. Gonzalez reached the quarterfinals by outlasting Riley in three sets. Riley came within a whisker of a rematch with Warner when he won the first set, 6-4, then dropped a heartbreaking 6-7 decision in the second set. Riley lost his chance to advance when he was forced to withdraw with an injury.
Things didn’t go well initially for Warner against Gonzalez as the Margaretville ace dropped the first set 2-6. But, Warner demonstrated the grit, persistence, and endurance that made him the DL champ. Warner battled back to take the match winning back-to-back sets 6-4, 6-1.
Warner ran into a buzz saw in the semifinals facing Seton Catholic’s Mike Perry. Perry won the match 6-0, 6-2, with the two games Warner took, Perry’s only missteps in the tourney. “Mike Perry will go to the states in Flushing Meadows,” noted Owdienko. “Perry trains at a year-round tennis center in Binghamton under the tutelage of a professional coach.”
Margaretville’s doubles team of Brandon Belaski and Yair Sanchez also reached the semifinals. After earning a first round bye, the Blue Devils’ dynamic duo downed Roxbury’s Katie Fairbairn and Kajus Normantas in two sets, 6-0, 6-1. Belaski and Sanchez breezed through the second round, 6-1, and 6-2, and continued their run eliminating Greene’s Garrett Hebbard and Sean Darling, 6-1, 6-2, in the quarterfinals.
The Margaretville pair stormed out of the gates by taking a 3-0 lead in the first set of a semifinal showdown with Alex Mccann and Ricky Miller from Seton Catholic. The Seton pair eventually found their mooring and battled back. The Margaretville team held on to win the first set, 7-6, but lost the match after losing the final two sets by the same 6-1 margin.
“Brandon and Alex played well. I thought for awhile we’d be making our first ever appearance in Binghamton,” praised Owdienko. Binghamton is the annual site of Section IV’s overall championships.