SALEM - Admittedly, the 2012 Salem Quakers tennis team didn't get off to a good start. As cliche as it might be, the old saying it's not how you start, it's how you finish, couldn't be more accurate for a squad that fought back to win a share of the Northeastern Buckeye Conference title with a 5-0 win over Alliance Monday at the Salem Racquet Club.
Salem started the season 0-3 before bouncing back to win four straight. But an early season loss to league foe Louisville put the team in a spot where they had no room for error.
"After seeing Louisville and losing 3-2, I thought we were pretty evenly matched," head coach Jeff Mooney said. "But I didn't feel there was a time where we panicked or were too worried. Our kids knew Louisville was the biggest match at the end of the schedule. I didn't really have to say anything to them."
Redemption for the Quakers came in a 3-2 win Monday at Centennial Park.
"That was probably the most focused team I had that night in my six years of coaching," Mooney said.
Salem has been led by its No. 1 and No. 2 singles players senior Mitch Maroscher and junior Jay Linam. On the year Maroscher is 14-0 and Linam 16-2. No. 3 singles player Andrew Pietzrak and doubles teams Marty Roth and Mark Fredrickson and Soskia Wolfe and Billy Erskine have all taken turns clinching matches to up the team's record.
"Mitch will be seeded No. 1 at the sectional," Mooney said. "He's better than he was last year, but that doesn't mean a free ride to the state tournament."
Maroscher will be looking for a return trip to Ohio's biggest high school tennis stage.
"He's a great player, and his temperament is better than last year," Mooney said. "He's a better person than he was last year. He's grown up."
Linam will join with Pietzrak to compete in the doubles division as the No. 4 seed. It's familiar territory for Linam who competed with Taylor Fredrickson in the last two seasons once the postseason began.
"Jay has been captain since he was a freshman," Mooney said. "He does whatever he's asked. He doesn't panic. He always works hard."
Maroscher and Linam both went unbeaten in league singles play in the team's inaugural year in the NBC. Linam also went 4-1 playing No. 1 singles this season in Maroscher's absence.
Sectional play for Maroscher begins 8 a.m. Wednesday at Boardman High School. For Linam and Pietzrak, they'll open a tough road in doubles at Volney Rodgers.
"For Mitchell, it should be about the same challenge as last year," Mooney said. "Once you get to districts you run into private schools and there could be some kids who come out of the blue. The road to state isn't a free one. He'll have to earn it."
"Jay and Andrew only played doubles once this year and beat Lakeview. Their first round match they play Warren JFK's No. 2 and No. 3 singles. It's probably going to be one of their toughest."
Salem finished 12-6 and 9-1 in league play winning 12 of 15 matches in the process. The Quakers will look to ride that hot streak as far as they can.
E-mail B.J. Lisko at firstname.lastname@example.org
Mitch Maroscher def. Cody Shearrow 6-0, 6-0
Jay Linam def. Luke Vanorsdale 6-1, 5-7, 6-4
Andrew Pietzrak def. Jim Neff 6-1, 6-0
Marty Roth and Mark Fredrickson def. Will Draves and Ben Kelly 7-5, 6-1
Soskia Wolfe and Billy Erskine def. Cody Cook and Mick Hilbert 6-2, 6-3