By Josh Brown
WEST MILTON — Last week, Nick and Nathan Brumbaugh became the latest in a long line of Brumbaughs to qualify for the state tournament for the Milton-Union tennis team.
This weekend, they hope to join Nick’s brothers and go one step farther than their own respective fathers.
Nick, a junior, and Nathan, a sophomore, are both cousins that won their second straight sectional championships as doubles teammates this season, going on to place third at last week’s district tournament and advance to Friday’s Division II state tournament, to be held at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
And the Brumbaugh legacy, which they will continue to grow, is already quite impressive.
“Our whole entire family,” Nathan Brumbaugh said. “Both my aunts had gotten fourth place — they were the first ones from Milton to place. And then my dad and uncle went (losing in the quarterfinals). Then (cousins) Philip and Matt went and got fourth place. No Brumbaugh has gotten higher than fourth place — and we’re hoping to break that here. But we’ll have to really play well.”
Nathan’s father John and Nick’s father Steve, the first Milton-Union boys doubles team to qualify for state, reached the quarterfinal round before falling — however, they are the only Milton-Union team to win a regional championship, as that briefly was a level of the postseason before Ohio switched to the sectional-district-state model. In 1978, Cheryl Brumbaugh and Lori Kinnison-Meyer — still the only Bulldog girls doubles team to win a district title — placed fourth at the state tournament, and in 1980 Diana Brumbaugh-Finfrock and Hillary Randolph also placed fourth at state.
And in 2015, Matt and Philip Brumbaugh — Nick’s brothers — advanced to the state tournament and became the first Bulldog boys doubles team to place, finishing fourth.
“Our goal is to make the final four this year and see how it goes from there,” Nick Brumbaugh said. “We want to get third or higher, but really our goal is just to play the best we can and have fun.”
Nick and Nathan got the chance to have extra fun at the district tournament.
The duo played two three-set matches on the tournament’s first day, battling the distance twice to reach the semifinals and qualify for state. First, they took on Wyoming’s Kyle Demers and Sean Schaefer, winning a tiebreaker in the first set 7-6 (2) before dropping the second set 6-2 and falling behind 4-1 in the third before rallying to win it 6-4 and advance to the district quarterfinals for the second straight season.
“It was a crazy day,” Nathan said. “We won the first set 7-6 and were trying to keep the ball going to their weaker player – but in the second set, he played amazing and didn’t miss a shot. He continued playing very well throughout the third and they were up 4-1, then Nick and I just decided to go for it all and started hitting the ball harder, and that’s what really helped us get past them.”
In the quarters, they faced Cincinnati Country Day’s Sai Nalagatla and Manav Midha, again winning the first set and dropping the second before closing out the win in the third for a 6-3, 3-6, 6-3 victory that put them in the semifinals — and ensured their spot at the state tournament.
The experience last year of reaching the quarterfinals and coming up short helped carry them through, they both said.
“It went pretty well,” Nick said. “It was pretty tiring, but we finally qualified for state and that’s what matters. (Last year) helped us a lot. It made us realize that it wouldn’t be easy to get to state, how hard it would be.”
“Against CCD, we came out in the first set and played really well, but in the second set we let off the gas and weren’t as aggressive,” Nathan said. “Then we just turned it around in the third set, held serve, made our breaks and finished it. (Having that experience last year) did help. It took some of the pressure off, because we knew what to expect. And it also helped take the pressure off having a crazy match in that first one.”
In the semis, the Nick and Nathan lost 6-2, 6-2 to Miami Valley School’s Makul Sharma and Reece Quigley, but they bounced back with a 6-3, 6-3 win in the consolation match over CCD’s Ash Annapantula and Herschel Albert to take a No. 3 seed into the state draw.
Friday, the Brumbaughs will open the state tournament against Lexington’s Luke and Blake Webster, a district champion from the Northwest district. All in all, three of the five district champions are in the Brumbaughs’ half of the bracket.
“Yeah, that draw was not too fortunate,” Nathan said with a laugh.
But they’ve been getting plenty of work with coach Roger Davidson and their family in preparation for the tournament — and it’s definitely a boon for them being able to hit against their fathers in practice.
“It’s been really helpful having both of our fathers be really educated and good at tennis, and coach Davidson has had great things to tell us to help us,” Nathan said. “It’s been really nice growing up having both our parents there really pushing us to get better. And we really appreciate everything the job coach Davidson has done with us, too.”
And even if they can’t get to the final four this season, they both know they will be back with another chance next season — which helps take some of the pressure off, too.
“It’ll be very tough, and we’ll have to play well,” Nick said. “We’ll have to come ready to play, but we’ll prepare and do whatever we can to make it to the final four. It does take some of the pressure off, knowing I have one more year to do it, and I’ll have more experience next year and know what it’s like to be at state.”
“We’ll definitely learn from this experience and know what to expect next year,” Nathan said.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.