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Aug/03/2015 - 02:22:18 am

State Games tennis: Schulenberg survives heat to claim gold medal - Lincoln Journal Star

Usually Ross Schulenberg is all about playing out the third set of a tennis match instead of substituting it with a shorter 10-point match tiebreaker.

But with temperatures Sunday sweltering into the upper 90s and the heat index in triple figures at the University of Nebraska Varsity Courts, the former Doane No. 1 singles player more than welcomed the shorter alternative.

Schulenberg jumped to a 5-1 lead in the tiebreaker and never looked back in closing out a 6-3, 5-7, 1-0 (10-3) victory over fellow Lincoln player Tyler Grove in the men's open singles final of the State Games of America.

"In fair weather, I'd much rather play out the third set because I feel I can wear down whoever I'm playing," said Schulenberg, a former Lincoln East standout. "But I'd make an exception today. I was ready to just go out there and get it over with after the second set."

Physically, Schulenberg and Grove look like they could be brothers. Their tennis games also mirror each other closely; both like to dictate play with their serve and forehand, but also like to mix things up with a variety of slice shots and an occasional rush to the net.

Grove, a former Class B state runner-up at Lincoln Christian who plays at LeTourneau University in Longview, Texas, won the last two games of the second set and seemed to have the upper hand going into the tiebreaker.

During the five-minute break between the second set and the match tiebreaker, "I used the rest room, got some Gatorade and got my mind re-set for the breaker," Schulenberg said. "And fortunately I played well."

Playing in oppressive heat is rare for Schulenberg. At Doane, his tennis was in the winter and spring, and a large portion of that was indoors. Schulenberg, who works in marketing at Nelnet, says most of his tennis now is in the evening after it's cooled down or late at night indoors at the Lincoln Racquet Club.

"There's really no way to prepare for these conditions unless you're out in them every day," said Schulenberg, who plays in the top division of the local Ace Bandage Tennis League. "It's a battle to keep yourself going when it's like this and not let your opponent know you're struggling."

The men's open doubles title went to the Omaha brother combination of Eric and Brent McKnight, who defeated Aaron Cook of Lincoln and Brody Lauby of Lexington 6-3, 6-2 for the gold medal.

In the highest women's singles division, top-seeded Stephanie Eells downed Claire Hying 7-6, 6-2 for the 4.5 title in an all-Lincoln final.

Lincoln players win district titles

Lincoln's Madi Kiani and Nick O'Shea won their respective age divisions at the Fremont District 4 Junior tournament, which concluded Sunday.

Kiani, a Lincoln East sophomore and state high school runner-up, defeated Anne Wiltfong of Lincoln 6-2, 6-1 in the girls 16 singles championship match. O'Shea captured the boys 14 singles crown, sweeping Christian Cortinas of Omaha 6-3, 6-3 in the finals.

A pair of Lincoln players reached the finals and finished second -- Southeast sophomore Fidan Ibrahimova in girls 18s and Bianca Rademacher in girls 14s.
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