By Teddy Rydquist
Leader Staff Writer
Featuring a limited summer and just 12 days between their first practice and the season-opening match against the Brandon Blackhawks on August 24, head coach Ryan Ruzziconi expected to see some rust from his varsity boys in the campaign’s early stages.
Quickly quelling any possible concerns about what to expect, Oxford won all three of their opening week matches, with two of these victories coming on the road.
Beginning with their clash with Brandon, a member of the Flint Metro League (FML), the Wildcats won 7-1, sweeping all four singles flights in the process.
Junior Chase Maier led the way at No. 1 singles, making quick work of Blackhawks senior Dawson Richards, 6-1, 6-0. Seniors Gabe Smith and Nolan Kutchey and sophomore Caidan Romine also added two-set victories.
The following day, August 25, Oxford hit the road again to battle a Macomb Area Conference (MAC) opponent, the Anchor Bay Tars.
Slightly closer than their opener, the Wildcats still won comfortably, 6-2, this time winning each of the doubles flights.
Senior classmates Zach Buchanan and Alex Robb took care of business in No. 1 doubles, knocking off juniors Ryan Cornman and Steven Motura, 6-1, 7-5. At No. 2 doubles, two more seniors, Anthony Pariso and Silas VonAllmen, turned in impressive showings, dispatching Anchor Bay junior Ethan Angeles and sophomore Brady Zarb, 6-0, 6-2.
Senior Dylan Augusti and sophomore Andrew Ehardt and juniors Carl Bailey and Gavin Marsden added wins at No. 3 and No. 4 doubles, respectively.
To close out this three-match week, Ruzziconi’s team welcomed in the Saginaw Valley League’s Davison Cardinals for their home-opener on August 27.
For the second-straight outing, Oxford won by a 6-2 margin and, once again, did not lose a doubles match.
Buchanan and Robb were the No. 1 pairing again, and Romine slotted in for VonAllmen at No. 2, teaming with Pariso.
“I think it went really well, maybe even a little better than I expected,” Ruzziconi said of the season’s first week of competition.
“Considering the rust, and the COVID, and everything else, I’m pretty pleased with how the first three matches turned out.”
Capturing 19 of a possible 24 points, the Wildcats performed well across the board, but there were still a couple of individuals who caught the coach’s eye.
“In singles, I think Kutchey has been really good for us, really consistent,” he shared. “He’s the type of player, I called him ‘Old Reliable’ yesterday (August 27) when he walked off the court because I can basically putting him anywhere at singles and he’s just going to win matches for me.
“The other one is Romine. Caidan, the same thing, I can plug him in at singles, I can play him at doubles, and they just perform, they just win. It’s nice to have two guys like that, where they’re athletic and flexible enough to play at any flight.”
Next up for Oxford are two more road matches, the MAC’s Romeo Bulldogs on Tuesday, September 1, and their first Oakland Activities Association (OAA) showdown, against the White Division’s Rochester Adams Highlanders, on Thursday, September 3.
“I talked to Davison’s coach, Anchor Bay’s coach a little bit recently, who have some more experience with them, and they said this might be Romeo’s best team in a couple of years,” Ruzziconi said.
“We’ve played them the last two years, beat them both times. First time we’ve ever played there, usually they’re always coming to us, so, this will be a test, this week might be our toughest week of the season so far.
“We had Adams on the schedule last year and we gave them a fight, but they took us down. They’re always a tough team and they’re close to Oxford, so it’s an easy trip back and forth for both us to play each other every year.
“Their coach (Al Must) is a good guy, so, we make sure we want to keep that going, kind of grow the rivalry. Plus, it’s a good test for us early in the season, we know we’re going to have to be on our game to even score a couple of points against them, so, that’s the reason behind scheduling them.”
Both matches begin at 4 p.m. The Wildcats’ next home date is Wednesday, September 9, against the Blue Water Area Conference’s (BWAC) Almont Raiders.
By Teddy Rydquist