The Highland High School boys tennis team recently finished up its regular season in a big way with a 9-0 sweep of Collinsville before the Bulldogs went on to wrap up their season at the IHSA Class 1A Triad Sectional.
Highland coach Matt Pellock said the Collinsville win was a fun way to fun way to end the regular season with everyone getting wins.
Andrew Roach played the same opponent he lost to a year ago in a close three-setter, but this time the outcome was different.
“This time he won two tight sets and played his best tennis in the second set tiebreaker,” Pellock said. “We really had some easy wins down our lineup, and that helped us enjoy some positive energy going into sectionals later in the week.”
Sign Up and Save
Get six months of free digital access to Belleville News-Democrat
The Collinsville match also marked the final tennis of the year for the junior varsity team.
“I was really proud of how they improved and competed throughout our season,” Pellock said. “We get them all back next season, and they can make some big strides to help this team next spring.”
At the Triad Sectional, the doubles draw would first see the Highland doubles team of Dylan Bargetzi and Roach go against Roxana, then No. 3 seed Waterloo, and likely No. 3 seed Triad.
The Highland duo won quickly in the Roxana match. They played Waterloo the previous weekend in the conference tournament and had a chance against them in the second set. This time, Bargetzi and Roach won the first set 6-3, then went up 5-2 in the second before Waterloo changed their game plan with both playing back at the baseline. The ploy worked for Waterloo fro a 7-5 second set win. Again, the Bulldogs got up 4-1 and Waterloo tied it at 4-4 . At 5-4, there was a long service game on Bargetzi’s serve before Highland finally pulled out the 6-4 win after Roach hit a drop volley on match point.
“Getting through that was a huge burst and felt like we finally had a significant win,” Pellock said.
Pellock said some of the best doubles played all season came against the Triad senior tandem of Zach Rosenthal and Cameron Little in the quarterfinal match.
Highland lost the first set 3-6 but it felt closer than that with many of the games being very competitive.
Highland got up 4-1 and 5-2 in the second set and was able to apply consistent pressure on Triad to make tough shots at net and off their groundstrokes.
“Some of the best tennis of Andrew’s career came in this match, making moves right on top of the net and hit his groundstrokes with consistent pace that Triad was struggling to handle,” Pellock said. “Dylan was as steady as any of his doubles matches this season, and with both Dylan and Andrew playing within their abilities, at a high level, we looked like a state team.”
The Bulldogs tandem had a couple set points at 5-4 in the second set and lost in a long deuce game. That was a tough game to lose and then Highland lost another close one down 5-6, for a final of 3-6, 5-7.
“We felt like we finally found the tennis we were looking for during the whole season, and really felt good that it came in these moments,” Pellock said. “I know they both enjoyed playing well in their most meaningful match of the year, and think that will serve some inspiration as they play and work on their game this offseason.”
Highland had Ben Thomae and Montana Gilbert competing in the singles draw and both of them ended up on both ends of the draw facing the top two players from Althoff. Montana faced the second seed in Donavon McKnight, who beat Gilbert 6-0, 6-0.
“Montana’s speed and racket ability was able to keep points going, but he was facing heavy topspin and tremendous control that would move Montana back and away from the court,” Pellock said. “In his short few months of high school tennis, Montana’s improvement was on an exponential pace, and I think his tennis is only beginning. His play and work ethic helped propel this team to a winning season.”
Thomae had a rematch with Althoff’s number 2 player who he previously played in the Triad Tournament. Thomae fell in defeat by scores of 2-6, 1-6.
“Ben traded games with him early in the match, but Althoff forced some misses from Ben and Althoff created well placed, deep shots throughout their match,” Pellock said. “Ben competes as well as anybody on our team, and he uses his abilities better than anyone in his matches. As a result, he had many comeback wins and wins against more experienced players because of his ability to compete.”
Nathaniel English and Tyler Baublitz competed as a doubles team. Even though they ended up in the middle of the draw, they had to play a tough Greenville doubles team and suffered a 1-6, 0-6 loss.
“Greenville was the 4 seed in the doubles draw, and they played very well,” Pellock said. “They showed no sign of nervous play and hit hard throughout that match. I think Nathaniel and Tyler made a good pair for us late in the season and they will comeback as some tough, veteran players next season.”