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It’s OK to share: Lex ties for title in its own loaded tenn

LEXINGTON — It was touch and go for a while, but Dylan Catanese’s run of perfection is still very much a thing.

Catanese and partner Ethan Remy rallied from down a set for a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory over their opponents from Columbus Bexley to win No. 1 doubles and help the host Minutemen to a first-place tie with New Albany in Saturday’s nine-team Lexington Invitational tennis tournament.

Both teams scored 24 points, with action taking place at the Lexington High School courts and inside Lakewood Racquet Club. Lex swept the three doubles courts (eight points apiece) to offset finishing with 0 in the lone singles division. New Albany earned eight points for winning singles and finished no lower than third in No. 1, 2 and 3 doubles.

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“I’m still undefeated in invites (as a varsity player), and it’s definitely cool to defend the home turf,” Catanese said. “The whole team has worked so hard. We definitely deserve this.”

It was a three-peat doubles title for the Lex junior. He won with Remy for the first time last year after winning it with former teammate Jake Chilcote as a freshman.

He’s also won back-to-back doubles titles in the Medina Invitational — last year with Chilcote and this year with Remy’s younger brother, Cooper, helping Lex to the overall crown.

The Lexington Minutemen took home the team title at their own invite on Saturday.

But, wait, there’s more.

Catanese’s titles in 2023 also included the Upper Arlington Doubles Tournament (with Ethan Remy), No. 1 doubles in the Ohio Cardinal Conference Tournament (with Chilcote) and Division II Northwest District sectional and district tournaments (with Ethan Remy).

If you’re counting at home, that’s nine doubles titles the last three years for Catanese with three different partners. His only doubles loss in a tournament came last year when he and Ethan Remy fell in the first round of the OHSAA state tournament. And they darn near pulled that one off.

“Dylan’s playing really good,” Lex coach Ron Schaub said. “I’d be surprised if he and Ethan don’t make it to the second day of the state tournament this year.”

To reach the finals Saturday, Catanese and Remy had to beat Walsh Jesuit 8-1 and Centerville 9-7 in pro sets before playing a traditional best-of-three sets match against Bexley.

Their win in the finals was huge because Bexley is probably the No. 1 Division II team in the Central District. Bexley was ranked No. 2  by the Ohio Tennis Coaches Association, but that was before knocking off No. 1 Columbus Academy.

Ethan Remy watches as Dylan Catanese bends low to return a shot in Saturday's Lexington Invitational

“We definitely turned it up in the third set,” Catanese said. “My baseline game for doubles hasn’t been good, in practice or in matches, but today was different. It was crazy.”

Remy, a senior, had no trouble putting the win in perspective.

“This is the best we’ve ever played,” the 2023 OCC Player of the Year said. “The second set we started poaching more and playing with more confidence, being more aggressive. And our serves started clicking.”

Remy, like Catanese, is on top of his game. Even though he had to settle for third at No. 1 singles in the Medina Invite, he batted stroke for stroke with two-time state doubles champ Chika Nwaozuzu of Pepper Pike Orange and was leading 5-1 in the decisive tiebreaker before falling10-7.

“I’m happy with my poaching and volleys,” Remy said. “It’s the weakest part of my game.”

At No. 2 doubles Saturday, Lex junior Owan Gongwer and senior Karl Etzel beat Findlay 8-1, Bexley 8-4 and then New Albany 6-1, 6-0 for the title.

Ontario's Pablo Sanchez Vidal played No. 1 doubles with his brother Hector in Saturday's Lexington Tennis Tournament.

Gongwer has picked up where he left off last year when he shared News Journal Player of the Year honors with Chicote. They earned second team All-Ohio honors by reaching the quarterfinals of the OSHAA tournament. The next day, in the coaches’ state team tournament, Gongwer authored the comeback victory at No. 3 singles against Columbus Academy that clinched a spot in the Division II finals for Lex, its first since 2015.

The Minutemen lost to Cincinnati Seven Hills in the finals, but finished as the No. 2-ranked team in the state.

“Last year, Karl and I only played once together,” Gongwer said. “This year, we’re going to be playing together in the postseason, so we’re playing a lot more together to get ready.”

Last year, Etzel became Lex’s first district singles champ since 2015. And Gongwer lost only one match at No. 3 singles, so together they could be even more lethal.

“We lost our first doubles match to Cincinnati St. X (Xavier), but they have a really good (Division I) team,” Etzel said. “We’ve worked a lot on our signals since that loss. Now we’re communicating better and know where each other is going.”

Nobody faced more pressure Saturday than No. 3 doubles partners Philip Etzel and Cooper Remy. They had to win to give Lex a share of the team title with New Albany. No problem. They finished their 3-0 day with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Bexley

“I assumed we were going to win 1 and 2 doubles, so I pretty much knew it was going to come down to our match,” said Etzel, Karl’s freshman brother. “I didn’t have many double faults and Coop’s volleys are pretty good, so I only lost one of my service games.”

JT Viscioni and Viktor Tane have been a pleasant surprise at No. 2 doubles for Ontario.

Schaub always put together one of the strongest invites in the state, with almost every team accustomed to being in the state rankings. No surprise that Lex and NewAlbany shared the title since they are ranked No. 1 in their respective districts — New Albany in Division I and Lex in Division II.

Schaub invited Ontario for the second year in a row, a well-deserved nod after the Warriors went 12-0 in Mid-Ohio Athletic Conference duals last season, winning every match 5-0 in addition to sweeping all five courts in the MOAC Tournament.

Coach Cary Carcione put brothers Pablo and Hector Sanchez Vidal — normally the No. 1 and 2 singles players in the lineup — at No. 1 doubles. They won a match against Dublin Coffman, while the No. 2 tandem of Matt Bayes and Alex Ellis beat Walsh and the No. 3 doubles team of J.T. Viscioni and Viktor Tane beat Findlay.

Viscioni and Tane, a senior who only began playing tennis seven months ago, have been a pleasant surprise for Ontario, filling a breach left by the graduation of the Warriors’ No. 2 doubles team.

“It’s a big responsibility,” Viscioni said. “We’ve got to uphold the Ontario name. We’ve got to keep pushing, even when it seems like we can’t get the win. Keep going for it. Keep playing with confidence.”

With Viscioni and Tane joining the four veterans in Ontario’s lineup, the Warriors are on the verge of finishing unbeaten in MOAC play for the second year in a row.

“It’s been great seeing J.T. and Viktor stepping up and getting a lot of wins,” Carcione said. “I was a little concerned not having Joseph (Litao) at the wheel (after playing No. 1 last year), but those four (veterans) have totally stepped up and done a good job as far as getting the work done. They worked hard all winter and continue to have huge passion for the game.”