OTTAWA — Ottawa-Glandorf’s Collin and Carter Welch qualified for the Division II state tennis tournament in doubles this season and that ended a 25-plus year drought for the high school to send some one or a doubles team to state.
It only seems fitting that the sophomore Titan twins were the ones to accomplish this feat. After all it was in their blood.
The last Ottawa-Glandorf boys doubles team to reach state was in 1992 when the duo of Ryan Burkhart and Jeff Leopold made it and Leopold is the twins’ uncle. The last women’s double to make it to state was the team of Mandy Clark and Marla Leopold in 1995 and she is the twins’ aunt.
The Welch brothers are happy to carry on the proud family tradition but it is more than just genetics that got this duo to Mason.
The two have been playing since they were 3-years-old, and it has been a mainstay of their life ever since and now they are making their mark at the high school level.
The duo played as freshmen with Collin Welch playing at second doubles and Carter Welch battling it out at third singles last season. The two helped Ottawa-Glandorf to a share of the league title in their first season, and the two said they gained a lot of valuable insight.
With a full year under their belts, the pair thrived this past season that culminated with strong showings in singles competition. Carter Welch played at No. 1 singles and Collin competed at No. 3 singles. With these two, along with a strong team effort, the Titans repeated as WBL champions.
Ottawa-Glandorf head coach Jay Laubenthal said playing singles was a factor in their progress as players.
“I think that singles game kind of helped both of them develop as good doubles players with their ground strokes and the consistency they have shown all year,” Laubenthal said. “Through the course of the year you could see them get better and they played really good competition.”
Once the postseason began the two teamed up for doubles and that was the plan even before the season had started. Since the two have played together as a doubles team most of their tennis lives, the transition was easy.
“Mostly just because we are twins we know that from when we were younger playing doubles we had a lot of success and it was just some kind of connection between us,” Collin Welch said.
Carter Welch echoed his brother’s sentiment and added that playing with his brother and knowing his tendencies is crucial in tight situations.
Laubenthal said it was a natural fit.
“For preparation for the tournament what we did we just had a week and a half where they played together. Obviously them being twins and things like they have probably been playing together for too long,” Laubenthal joked. “I think they are finally hitting their strides later in the season.”
Even though the brothers admit to a little sibling bickering once in a while the two knew together they were formidable foes and backed it up by capturing the Division II sectional title and then followed it up with a second-place showing at districts.
“Based off the draw we had at sectionals they got the No. 1 seed from our sectional, and I thought that would give us a pretty good shot to make it to state and I think it did,” Laubenthal said.
The Welch brothers defeated a Bryan pair in a hard fought three-set affair and then followed it up with a second straight three-set win over a team from Lexington. In the district semifinals, the two downed the duo from Wauseon before the No. 1 seed Lexington pair defeated them in the finals.
Laubenthal said this week the two have been tuning up their game in preparation for the stiff competition they will face in Mason and added that they will travel down to the courts at state to get some practice time and get a feel for the atmosphere.
The Welch brothers will face the Youngstown Ursula pair of Josh Khavari and Gavin Blacksher on Friday. Both are also sophomores.
Laubenthal said the Welch brothers are mentally tough and are built for this kind of competition.
“They are definitely born tennis players,” Laubenthal said. “They are the two tennis players on our team. The other ones seem more like athletes than tennis players. They are definitely the ones ready for the stage and hopefully they can compete with the best in the state.”
Collin and Carter Welch both feel they have accomplished what they wanted to this season but that does not mean they just want to be show up and get beat.
“I would like to win at least one match just to stay we have won at state,” Collin Welch said. “The last ones from Ottawa-Glandorf to make it to state were our aunt and uncle so it has some kind of significance, and it runs in the blood.”