The Talawanda High School men’s tennis team looks set to be the Ohio Southwest Conference champions for a sixth straight year as they prepare for the 2022 spring season.
The Braves open with a March 28 home game against Lakota East High School. The team has 20 extra regular season games program before the SWOC post-season tournament on May 5 at the University of Miami.
After a successful 2021 season (12-5 overall and 4-0 in the league), the team must replace the senior graduates Dillon Slager and Jarrett Clawson. Slager’s first-team doubles record in 2021 was 9-10 (3-1 SWOC) while Clawson finished his final season at Talawanda with a 13-6 (4-0 SWOC) record as a first player in singles. At the end of the 2021 season, Jarrett Clawson was named SWOC Male Tennis Athlete of the Year.
While Jarrett Clawson has graduated, his two younger brothers are part of a group of players returning to diamond this season. Jake Clawson, Justin Clawson, Bryce James, Max Kelly, Tyler Morrison and Jack Sikora are all expected to join Team Brave.
Justin Clawson, playing the second singles, finished last year with a 15-4 record (4-0 SWOC), while Jake Clawson, playing the third singles, finished his 2021 season with a 16-3 record (4-0 SWOC). Both Justin Clawson and Tyler Morrison received SWOC 2021 First Team honors. Team tryouts will be held on March 7 to recruit new talent to complete the roster.
The team is led by Talawanda High School business teacher Pete Thomas, who served as head coach for 23 years, with help from assistant coach Nate Silberstein. Thomas also coaches the women’s tennis team in the fall.
“My second year here as a corporate finance teacher, they were looking for a head coach for the team and being young and naive, and knowing tennis so much because I started playing tennis when I was in eighth grade, I volunteered to be the coach,” Thomas said.
Thomas received the SWOC Coach of the Year award in 2019 and 2021.
According to Thomas, the team has a diverse group of players when it comes to experience. While some have played tennis most of their lives, others know next to nothing about it.
“Unlike other players, the Clawson brothers have been coached by a professional tennis player since they were in fifth grade and that’s why they have the most wins,” Thomas said.
Although the team is favored to win the SWOC title again this year, they face some early challenges, including a returning player who is currently unavailable due to injury. However, team morale remains high and the Clawson brothers express confidence in the team’s ability to win.
“SWOC is up for a bit more than usual because we lost a few seniors (from) last year. It will be up to the rest of our team to win,” Jake said.
The Clawsons said their competitive nature, as well as their love for the game, is what draws them to the sport.
“I’ve always loved this sport, it’s fun to play,” said Justin.
With the challenge of new team dynamics and a solid schedule, the team remains confident in their ability to defend their SWOC title heading into a new season.