The Highland High School boys tennis team has played a lot of tennis the past couple of weeks and has had some good successes leading up to this weekend’s Mississippi Valley Conference Tournament.
Overall, the Bulldogs boast an 8-3 record and are 12-5 overall, including non-conference tournament play.
Highland finished the MVC regular-season matches with an 8-1 win against Civic Memorial and a 3-6 loss to Triad.
The Bulldogs enter the conference tournament with a 2-3 MVC record, but they have quite a few individual wins throughout those matches that could give us a chance to finish higher in the league tourney than their regular-season MVC record would indicate.
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“We also have some guys who have improved along the way that could edge some of their competition when they could not earlier in the season,” said Highland coach Matt Pellock.
Brothers Zach and Jacob Plocher have fared well in singles in conference play. Zac’s only loss came against Mascoutah and Jacob had a big win against Triad, winning a third-set tiebreaker that will certainly help his seeding for the MVC tourney.
Zach and Jared Bargetzi are likely to be the top seed at No. 2 doubles.
They really play well as a pair and show great doubles fundamentals,” Pellock said. “They come to net frequently, and execute solid, consistent shots that force many errors from the other team.”
Brett Barker has had some success in his singles as well in the conference with wins over Civic Memorial, Jerseyville and Waterloo, and he will team up with Ryan Long at No. 1 doubles.
“Those two could certainly get a first-round win to put them in the top half of the conference,” Pellock said.
Pellock said a key for the Bulldogs will be if they see the improvement from Andrew Roach and Nathaniel English in the tournament, with Roach at No. 6 singles and the duo together at No. 3 doubles.
“These two have shown a lot of progress in their game lately, and I will be interested to see if they can get a win early in the tournament,” Pellock said.
A notable match from midseason was a dominant 9-0 win over Collinsville.
“This was a nice way to start our break before the conference tournament,” Pellock said. “Collinsville has a lot of new players, and we did well to work points and force some early misses that gave everyone early leads and straight-set wins. We even had some guys step up a spot in the doubles to get some varsity experience.”
Austin Zurliene and English played No. 3 doubles and completed the team sweep with a 6-3, 6-2 win.
Highland also pulled out a 5-4 victory over Effingham St Anthony for HHS’ first victory over the Bulldogs from St. Anthony’s from Effingham since the 1999 season.
“They have had a history of great teams, and this team was still a nice team with good depth,” Pellock said. “The key for us was to get four out of the six singles wins like we did.”
Zach Plocher beat another tough top player to continue a special season at No. 1 singles.
Pellock said Long had a bit of a bizarre match after winning 6-1, 1-6, 6-2.
Bargetzi and Jacob Plocher wrapped up the Nos. 4 and 5 singles wins which the team really needed.
St Anthony was strong at 1 and 3 doubles, but Zach Plocher and Bargetzi dominated at 2 doubles, winning 6-0 and 6-0.
Highland went 3-1 in the Edwardsville Duals Tournament after beating Belleville East’s JV, Belleville Althoff and Rock Island and losing to Edwardsville’s JV.
“This was a ton of tennis for the team and great late-season experience,” Pellock said. “I think our highlight wins came against a nice Althoff team.”
Althoff’s No. 1 is a big hitter and Zach Plocher played great, winning 6-2, 6-2.
Highland’s No. 1 doubles team of Barker and Long played some of their best doubles so far and they got a 6-4, 6-3 win.
The clincher came at No. 2 doubles, where Bargetzi and English hung on for solid 6-4, 6-3 win which gave Highland a nice team victory.
Certainly another highlight of the Edwardsville tournament was HHS’ last match against Rock Island, where the Bulldogs had a 4-1 win.
Blake McCaslin and Zurliene got their first varsity wins at No. 3 doubles, and Pellock said it was great to see after a really close loss against Althoff.
Highland defeated Alton Marquette 7-2.
“This was our last home match and a nice win to complete the home season for our senior group,” Pellock said. “Zach (Plocher) finished his home season undefeated, and ended his home career with a doubles victory alongside his younger brother Jacob.”
Long also posted two victories, with a great third-set win in singles, and an 8-5 doubles win with Barker.
Bargetzi won in straight sets in singles and had a good battle at No. 3 doubles with Zurliene.
The Bulldogs scored a convincing 9-0 triumph over Granite City.
“This was our first shutout of the season and it came with a couple close wins,” Pellock said. “Andrew (Roach) had almost exactly a two-hour long singles match, that concluded with a 10-8 win in the super tiebreaker. This was a great effort from Andrew and he battled until the end. He had a tremendous passing shot to go up 8-6 in the tiebreaker that gave him the control he needed to win it.”
Bargetzi also won in a third-set tiebreaker. After losing some momentum in the second set, he put it together in the tiebreaker with good consistent play. Bargetzi made his opponent work a little harder off of his approach shots.
Another match that was close for the first half was at No. 1 doubles. Barker and Long came back from a struggling 3-6 first set to win dominate the final two sets, 6-0 in the second set and 10-1 in the second set and tiebreaker.
Along with the close wins, there were some dominant ones as well. Zach Plocher, Jacob Plocher and Barker all had singles wins where they just dropped a couple games between the three of them.
“These three have played great singles this year and really give us a boost going into the doubles,” Pellock said. “Nathaniel (English) played well too in this one as he and Jacob hung on for a 6-2, 6-4 win that included some nice net play from Nathaniel, and good defense from Jacob (Plocher) late in games.”