Tennis ladder gives players an opportunity to hone skills, develop relationships

Jun. 10—Three days a week tennis players from all over northeastern Ohio, and a few from Pennsylvania, gather to hone their skills and develop friendships.

The Ashtabula County Tennis Ladder is in its 13th year under the direction of Saint John tennis coach Todd Nassief.

The summer is a unique time with about a 100 players taking to the court to compete against other players they normally would not encounter.

On Saturday morning, 16 players played at Saint John School and another 16 were at Lakeside High School, Nassief said.

He said singles action is featured on Saturdays, team competition on Sunday evenings and a concentration on doubles play on Wednesdays.

"We will have about 100 players and will play close to 1,000 matches," Nassief said.

Juliana Beltarski, 15, of Chardon, comes to the event regularly.

"I like it," she said with a large smile.

Nassief said 35 players of the tennis-ladder participants have gone on to play college tennis, but the connection with the others is the bigger part of the experience.

"What I am most proud of are the lifelong relationships," Nassief said.

Nassief said he still has close friends that he grew up playing tennis with in Ashtabula.

Alex Guthrie, who graduated from Perry High School, is now an employee of Top Notch Tennis that runs tennis tournaments throughout northeastern Ohio, parts of Michigan and other surrounding states.

Guthrie played college tennis at John Carroll University, and appreciates all the matches played in the tennis ladder from 2012 to 2014 when he was in high school and college tennis.

"It gave me a variety of people to compete against and getting the extra match play," he said.

Guthrie is the event coordinator for his company and working on the Tennis in the Land professional tournament held annually at Nautica in Cleveland.

He said it is scheduled for Aug. 18 to 24.

Roman Vencill, a parent of Edgewood tennis player Brady Vencill, said the event is really good for player development.

"This is by far the best thing these kids can do," Vencill said.

Vencill said he played competitive adult softball throughout the late 2000s and early 2010s and developed a lot of relationships.

"This [the tennis ladder] reminds me a lot of that," he said. "The most important this is the camaraderie."

While many of the players are up-and-coming junior and senior high school players, there are also older one who compete as well, Nassief said.

Lou Murphy Jr., an assistant tennis coach at Edgewood High School, works with Nassief on the administration of the tennis ladder.

Murphy Jr. said he had his tennis experience broadened while playing at Jefferson High School and and Edinboro University.

"I got to see different competition, not just from the county," Murphy said.

He said the competition at the ladder has helped him challenge himself to play tennis in college.

Murphy said the Sunday portion of the tennis

ladder involves breaking into two overall teams, and the winners receive gift cards provided by area businesses.