Van Wert senior Michael Etter hits a serve during a district tennis match against Lexington’s Benton Drake during play at Bowling Green State University on Wednesday morning. (DHI Media/John Parent)
Van Wert senior Michael Etter hits a serve during a district tennis match against Lexington’s Benton Drake during play at Bowling Green State University on Wednesday morning. (DHI Media/John Parent)

BOWLING GREEN — The high school tennis career for Van Wert senior Michael Etter came to a close on Wednesday, two wins short of a berth at the state meet. In a district match against top-seeded Benton Drake of Lexington at the Keefe Courts of Bowling Green State University, Etter was eliminated by a 6-1, 6-0 final.

“I thought I played well, but he’s a really good player,” Etter said. “The result wasn’t what I wanted, but I’m still glad that I could go out playing well.”

Drake, a rangy right handed sophomore with a solid forehand and a strong service game broke Etter on the senior’s first service game of the opening set, setting the tone for the match. Etter held in his second game, but trailed 4-1 early. He continued to fight, making Drake earn every point, but the Lexington sophomore was up to the task, connecting on a bevy of passing shots and moving Etter to all quadrants of the court. In one instance, Drake chased down an Etter lob shot and rifled a return between his legs with his back to the net. That shot sailed a hair long, but it showed Etter that no point would come easily.

Trailing 5-0 in the second set and facing a Drake service game for the match, Etter continued to fight, gaining four deuces in the final game before Drake finally secured the game’s last point.

A trip to districts wasn’t necessarily expected for the Cougar senior. In order to make it to Bowling Green, Etter had to upset Ottawa-Glandorf’s Carter Welch at the UNOH sectional last week. He did so and qualified to the district meet as the fourth seed from the Lima sectional. He is the third Cougar netter to make it to districts in recent years.

“I’ve been a varsity player for four year, so to get a change to go out playing well is great,” Etter said. “It’s really awesome [getting to districts]. In my four years, I played with Brandon Amstutz and my brother, Nick Etter, and they both made it to districts. It’s cool to see them congratulate me for making it to districts, as well.”

The Cougars had a slow start to the 2018 season, but Etter said his team stayed the course and improved steadily as the season wore on. Van Wert won four of its final six team matches during the season.

“We just kept practicing, and kept working,” Etter said of his team’s improvement as the season wore on. “We did not complain this year at all; we knew what we were there to do, we wanted to get better, and I think we really got the best we could do this year.”

Etter played first singles for the Cougars this season. Van Wert’s second and third singles players are both underclassmen, and junior Kannen Wannemacher came within one win of a district berth this season, so the future of Cougar boys tennis looks bright.