Friday, July 06, 2001

Yarrell is tennis success story

Troubled high schooler returns to Met
as top college player

By Dave Schutte
The Cincinnati Enquirer

Isaac Yarrell
(Ernest Coleman photo)
| ZOOM |
        It wasn't long ago when Isaac Yarrell cared little about education, choosing to hang with the wrong crowds instead of pursuing academic success or an athletic career.

        Yarrell, then a 15-year-old sophomore at Princeton High School, was ineligible to play tennis for the Vikings because of academic problems.

        “I never thought I'd graduate from high school or get into college,” Yarrell said after defeating J.R. Randall 6-4, 6-0 in a first-round match Thursday in the Thomas E. Price Metropolitan Championship at Lunken Playfield.

        “It was a matter of growing up. I could have either hung out on the streets or play tennis. Mom (Sylvia) and dad (Waughney) never gave up and pushed me to get my grades up and become eligible.”

        In September, the 21-year-old Yarrell will be a senior at Florida A&M University and will be the school's No.1 singles tennis player. He's in a five-year program and is scheduled to graduate in 2003.

        “I was playing No.5 and 6 singles but moved up to No.1 and 2 singles this past year,” said Yarrell, who went 21-7 last season.

        The turnaround started in Yarrell's junior year at Princeton. He became academically eligible to compete for the first time and immediately drew raves from Cincinnati- area coaches who had never seen him play.

        In 1998, Yarrell reached the Division I state championship match as a senior against Sycamore junior Eric Pittman, now a junior at the Air Force Academy.

        Yarrell was impressive in the opening-round match Thursday against Randall, a recent Turpin graduate who qualified for the Division I state doubles competition and will play in college for West Virginia this fall.

        After starting slowly, Yarrell took control, serving and volleying like a seasoned professional to finish the match in 55 minutes.

        “I reached the round of 16 last year and lost to Jason Yeager,” Yarrell said. “Last year I had little preparation, but this year I'm ready. I'd like to play Jason again this year.”

        Yarrell, the No.12 seed, and Yeager, No.3, are in the same bracket and will meet in the round of 16 if both players win two more matches.

        Yarrell still remembers vividly his loss in that state championship match in high school.

        After winning the first set at Ohio State University, Yarrell took a 4-1 lead in the second when Pittman started suffering leg cramps.

        Under Ohio High School Athletic Association rules, leg cramps aren't considered an injury, and Pittman was allowed to take as much time as needed before continuing play.

        The 20-minute break revived Pittman and hurt Yarrell's concentration. As a result, Pittman went on to win the state championship.

        The next week wasn't fun for Yarrell at school.

        “We still had about seven days of school after the tournament,” Yarrell said. “No one at Princeton said a word to me the next week. It was a reality check and a humbling experience.”

        TODAY: Men's singles play continues at 6 p.m. with 28 matches.

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