The Highland High School boys tennis team dropped its home opener, 1-8, to Mount Vernon on Wednesday, April 4 before bouncing back to eclipse the Greenville Comets, 5-4, on Friday and then finishing the week by going 1-2 at the Triad Invitational on Saturday.
The Bulldogs were rained out against Jerseyville on Tuesday, April 3. The match will be made up on Thursday, April 19. This week, Highland is scheduled to host Mascoutah on Thursday. The junior varsity is slated to compete in the Edwardsville JV Tournament on Saturday.
Highland lost 0-5 to both Jacobs (Algonquin, Illinois) and Washington (Illinois), but the Bulldogs defeated the Centralia Orphans, 4-1.
"We had more crazy cold conditions that made for a tough start in this tournament," Highland coach Matt Pellock said. "Jacobs had two very tough opponents at 1 and 2 singles. Andrew Roach and Dacoda Riechmann were having to match outstanding pace of shot and control from Jacobs. "
The most competitive match came at No. 1 doubles, where Nathaniel English and Tyler Baublitz lost two close sets, 6-7, 5-7.
"We certainly had opportunities in both sets to win," Pellock said. "We did well in the first set to match Jacobs in good pursuit of the net and fell just a bit short of our execution in the tiebreaker. In the second set, we got down 0-5 and came back to tie at 5-5. I think that was a sign of feeling a lapse after the close tiebreak loss, but I was glad to see the battle back to even the set."
Tyler Hunter played his first varsity match for Highland as he teamed up with fellow freshman Sutherland Allen. The duo played very competitive tennis against a more experienced tandem.
"These two have improved a lot in a month, and you can see the process of them learning and adjusting as they continue their match experiences," Pellock said.
Pellock said Centralia has a brand new lineup this season, with beginning players that the Bulldogs had the experience over.
Vinny Ermer recorded his first win for Highland as he stepped in to team up with Zane Robertson at No. 3 doubles, and the Bulldogs' pairing scored a convincing 6-2, 6-1 victory.
Highland 5, Greenville 4
In eclipsing the Comets, the Bulldogs and Greenville split the six singles matches, but the Bulldogs won two of the three doubles matches, and therefore, won the overall team match.
"The conditions were challenging as temps dropped quickly from the start of match time, but this was our best effort of the early season, without two important pieces of our lineup in no Tyler (Baublitz) or Dylan (Bargetzi) in this one," Pellock said.
Victorious in singles for Highland were English, Andrew Roach and Connor Barton.
English was pushed to the limit before prevailing in three tight sets over Greenville's top player, Joshua Brannon, by the scores of 6-4, 5-7, 10-8.
Roach had a much easier match after breezing to the win in straight sets, 6-2, 6-1.
Barton was also forced to three sets. After dropping the first set, he rebounded to outlast his opponent, 2-6, 6-4, 10-7.
In doubles, English and Roach won 8-6 at the No. 1 spot, while Riechmann and Robertson took down their foes at 3 doubles by the same 8-6 count.
Pellock said English likely had his best singles win of his career after winning at the top singles spot.
"Brannon is quick and hits a hard ball, and Nathaniel kept up with the pace and managed it with good consistency that lead to errors from Brannon," Pellock said. "Nathaniel picked the right shots to come to net on and stayed back and hit with Brannon when the opportunities to come up weren't there. I think, before, he would not have felt comfortable staying back for long rallies, but he is finding that he is capable of playing baseline tennis, and that is making his net play even more effective, because it's pressuring his opponent to change their shot and try to end the longer points."
Pellocki said Roach showed off big serves and forehands and was very composed during his rallies.
After falling behind at our other spots, Barton was able to come back for a big win at number 4 singles.
"After starting off struggling to find his swing, he really turned his game around, and won a big super tiebreaker," Pellock said of Barton. "I was really pleased to see that level of focus and it was a big turning point in our match."
In doubles, Pellock said Roach and English came through with a break of serve and big hold from Roach to get that win, while Riechmann and Robertson were able to hold on to their lead as well to win at 3 doubles.
Mount Vernon 8, Highland 1
The lone win for the Bulldogs against the Rams came in singles from Barton, who survived to win over Zain Radtke in three sets, 2-6, 6-3, 10-7.
Highland lost the other five singles matches and all three doubles matches in straight sets.
"We had a lot of opportunities and just couldn't finish with many wins," Pellock said. "Connor (Barton) finished well and got a big win for him in singles.
"Tough loss at 3 singles for Tyler (Baublitz). He got a good lead in the tiebreaker, and his opponent was playing very defensive tennis that was tough to force a miss, especially late in the tiebreaker."