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November 18, 2013

Utica’s Mario Russo named MAC Blue MVP

Chieftains’ no. 1 singles player earns league’s top honor

By Thomas Franz
C & G Sports Writer

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Utica’s No. 1 singles player, Mario Russo, hits a shot during the MAC Blue tennis tournament earlier this season. Russo earned conference MVP honors this season.

UTICA — Mario Russo battled through several injuries this past tennis season, but his skill and work ethic helped him earn MAC Blue MVP honors.

Russo, a junior at Utica High, won the No. 1 singles flight at the MAC Blue tournament this fall. Russo said that he fell short of his ultimate goal of playing at least one match in the state tournament, but he was still pleased with his season.

“I was pretty happy with the way the season ended up. I got a lot of wins, but I was a little disappointed that I wasn’t able to make it to states,” Russo said. “I was happy with the way I progressed with my strokes and the amount of work I put in really paid off, so I was happy with it.”

Utica coach Rick Farr said that Russo was able to have such a successful season because of his dogged determination to outwork the competition.

“Mario worked hard for what he achieved. He has adequate athletic abilities, but it was his hard work that made this season happen for him. He outworked his opponents. Not only did he come to all of the practices, but he would have extra lessons and extra time with his club tennis coach,” Farr said.

After an unbeaten season in league play, Utica will be moving to play in the MAC White Division next season. Although that will bring tougher competition, Russo said that he is confident and ready to embrace that challenge.

“We’re going to the White Division, and I know the White Division is stronger. I feel pretty good right now. You still have to practice to prepare for what’s going to happen, and you don’t know what’s going to happen, but I do feel kind of confident knowing that I was at the top of the Blue Division,” Russo said.

To prepare for his senior season, Russo is working on his game and knows he will be taking a leadership role in motivating his teammates off of the court, as well.

“I just want to get a really solid game that doesn’t have a weakness,” Russo said.  “I’ve been talking to my teammates in the hallways, trying to get them to go play in the offseason, because taking six months off of tennis really hurts your game. Once the season gets here, I’m going to be adding my tips like I usually do and try to get them to play as much tennis as possible.”