Indian Hill tennis rolls on under former Brave

INDIAN HILL - Indian HIll didn't come away with many headlines or hardware from their visit to Flight A of the Coaches Classic, but the top-notch competition should prove its worth as they venture on into the Division II postseason. Along with Cincinnati Country Day, the Braves were playing the best of the best of the area's Division I schools. CCD finished fourth behind champions Sycamore and Mason's "A" teams and St. Xavier. Indian Hill was fifth ahead of the Mason and Sycamore "B" teams and Turpin.

"For our team, it's going to go over well," first-year Indian Hill coach Wade Ward said. "We still have a lot to prove and a lot to learn. We're getting there."

Ward is a former Braves tennis ace who helped account for some of the multitudes of tennis plaques that have surrounded the gym (and have since been updated) at Indian Hill for years. The Braves have won the last two Cincinnati Hills League titles and have dominated the league since records were kept. Since 1986, Indian Hill has won the league with the exception of 2009 and 2014 when Wyoming was victorious.

The Braves were a little short-handed with first singles player Andrew Pregel out ill for the Coaches Classic wrap-up. Pregel is still expected to be a factor on the Division II singles scene, along with defending DII singles champion Kevin Yu of CCD. Pregel has been in the mix since his freshman season when teams would underestimate him because of his size.

"He's playing well," Ward said of Pregel. "He's still that high, but he's a little thicker now. He's developing. Everyone knows who he is and that he can play. I'm looking forward to seeing what he's got."

Maanas Pisati is a junior like Pregel and has developed nicely. Pisati has played doubles but will enter the postseason in singles.

"He likes singles more, so we're trying to keep him there," Ward said.

Though Christian Lima and Pablo Guzman teamed up for Flight A doubles, Ward will enter Lima with Milan Bhandari for the tournament. Guzman will move to singles. Lima, Bhandari, Guzman and Mrinal Singh are hoping to end strong as Indian Hill seniors. Sophomore Mack Ellis played doubles with Singh in the Coaches Classic.

Also on the roster is freshman Anay Gautham who has filled in when others haven't been available. Gautham is part of a reliable and valuable pipeline to the Indian Hill varsity.

"We're just trying to get him prepared for next year," Ward said.

The reloading takes place every year on the Indian Hill courts. The current Braves junior varsity team has lost just one match.

For Ward, he's enjoying his time back at his alma mater and court discipline is never a problem. His most recent job prior to returning to Cincinnati was in law enforcement as a Mobile, Alabama, deputy sheriff. He's now dropped the patrol car for the racquet and works at Camargo Racquet Club when not leading Indian Hill onto a court somewhere.

"I'm glad I got an opportunity to come back and make it great again like when I was there," he said. "That's the plan. I get along with the guys. We know what we need to do to win and we're trying to get there."

During his playing career, Indian Hill won three team state titles and he was part of a doubles state championship.

"I think all of my guys can advance at least to districts," Ward said of the 2017 Braves. "After that, we'll see how it goes."

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