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by Frank Aceto
Associate Sports Editor
Considering his finish last year, it would be easy to think he's the overwhelming favorite to win it all this year.
But Hudson resident Aaron Sandberg, a senior on the Walsh Jesuit boys tennis team, knows better.
"I just have to take everything one step at a time," he said. "At this point, there are no easy matches."
That was certainly the case at the Oberlin College Division I district tournament, which concluded May 23.
Sandberg, who was the state runner-up in singles' play last year, placed third after earning a 7-6, 6-3 victory over Chagrin Falls Kenston's Austin Barr in the consolation final.
Sandberg went to the consolation bracket after losing a 6-2, 5-7, 7-6 decision to Nathan Griffin of St. Ignatius.
Regardless of where he finished, Sandberg, who is 28-2 on the season and a four-time state qualifier, had already punched his ticket to the final round prior to stepping on the court May 23.
He won two matches May 21 in Oberlin to assure himself a trip to the state competition, which is scheduled to take place May 30 and 31 at The Ohio State University Varsity Outdoor Courts in Columbus.
Play is set to begin at 9 a.m. both days.
"Right now, I'm just trying to enjoy qualifying for states," Sandberg said.
"I want to stay focused on myself and get ready to battle."
Sandberg had beaten Griffin three times prior to the district competition. None of those matches were easy.
"He's a great player," Sandberg said. "All four of our matches have been really competitive. This time, he got the best of me and I just need to learn from that."
Sandberg was pleased with his performance against Griffin. But like any perfectionist, he definitely believes he could have played better.
"I thought I competed really well," Sandberg said. "I definitely need to play more offensive and work on my serve.
"I need to dictate play with my serve. That will give me a better shot of doing well at states."
Sandberg's opponent in the consolation final was another familiar face.
"I played Austin three times," he said. "He's a very impressive player. Every time I play him, I'm very impressed with the way he strikes the ball. I can definitely see him doing well at states."
Sandberg is on the short list of favorites to win the state title. But again, the standout senior isn't one to take such a thing for granted.
"I know I'm going to have to be on my 'A' game to win," Sandberg said. "That definitely was evident [May 24]. I'm just trying to take one match at a time and hopefully, I can just find a way."