After losing three Mississippi Valley Conference matches, the Highland High School boys tennis team bounced back to post a solid 3-1 record at last weekend's Belleville East Tournament.
Nobody on Highland had a better stretch in just more than a week of competition than Nathaniel English and Andrew Roach, both of whom earned impressive records of 11-3 in combined singles and doubles competition.
"They are playing the top players of every team, and many of these wins from them have been shutouts or close to, making it an extra impressive run," Highland coach Matt Pellock said. "They have been working hard this season, and this kind of stretch is the pay off from that work, and happening at a big moment of the season."
The Belleville East Tournament was a nice finish to the stretch after the Bulldogs had suffered defeats to Mascouah, 1-8, Waterloo, 3-6, and Jerseyville, 4-5.
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Belleville East Tournament
Highland had Dylan Bargetzi back for the weekend, and inserting him back into the lineup was a huge boost for the Bulldogs.
"We have been making strides with our guys at our lower varsity spots, but they have been a little outmatched in the spots they have had to play at," Pellock said. "We are hoping we can continue with Dylan back and see what this lineup can do."
Highland took an 0-9 loss to Quincy on the chin to open the tourney. Everybody lost in straight sets, with the exception of Bargetzi, who battled to the end before finally succumbing, 1-6, 7-6, 7-10.
"His first day back on the court, he was on the brink of defeating a returning state-qualifier in his match verses Quincy. (He was) able to rally against some hard hitting, and he was shaking off some of the rust very quickly throughout that singles match," Pellock said.
In their second match, the Bulldogs easily swatted Granite City 8-1. The wins in singles came from English, Roach, Tyler Baublitz, Connor Barton and Sutherland Allen.
Posting the victories in doubles were the teams of English and Baublitz, Roach and Bargetzi and Zane Robertson and Barton.
In the third round, Highland doubled up Alton 6-3.
Winning in singles were English (6-0, 6-0), Roach (6-3, 6-4), Bargetzi (6-0, 7-5), Baublitz (6-1, 6-2).
Victorious in doubles competition against the Redbirds were Roach and Bargetzi (9-7) and English and Baublitz (8-3).
"One of the most interesting matches we have had so far this season came against Alton at 1 doubles, where Andrew (Roach) and Dylan (Bargetzi) were really struggling, and quickly becoming non-competitive in the pro-set," Pellock said. "They got down 1-7, and gradually took some games that boosted their energy and resulted in a great eight-game run to win the match 9-7. A big factor was Andrew (being) able to find his serve again, which can be tough to do."
Pellock said the Alton match was also good for Baublitz, because after losing some matches in which he could have been more competitive, he got some confidence back. Baublitz scored two wins against Alton.
In their final match of the tournament, the Bulldogs shut out Edwardsville's JV 9-0.
Highland won all five competed singles matches in straight sets: English (6-0, 6-1), Roach (6-2, 6-1), Bargetzi (6-1, 6-0), Baublitz (6-0, 6-1) and Robertson (6-0, 6-0).
Securing wins in doubles were English and Roach (8-1) and Barton and Allen (9-7).
The No. 6 singles match and the No. 3 doubles match were both defaulted to Highland.
"It was fun to finish off the weekend with a shutout against a program that typically carries a JV team that is better than most varsity programs," Pellock siad. "Edwardsville was not where they have been in their JV experience, and that gave us an opportunity to get all wins. A very competitive doubles match at 2 doubles finished our weekend, with Connor (Barton) and Sutherland (Allen) trading games with Edwardsville. We were able to win a couple games in a row, and then finished with a strong return game from both of them to break serve and win. These two were able to play a lot of matches the past week, and gain some great experience."
Pellock said he is really seeing improvement for Allen, who is lately getting the results he has wanted. Allen won a close singles match against Jerseyville, and almost got a win against Alton.
"The great trait he has is always wanting to get back out to hit after he plays. He wants to keep getting better," Pellock said.
Three conference defeats
In the 1-8 losses to Mascoutah, all of Highland's eight defeats came in straight sets. Scoring the only victory for the Bulldogs was the doubles tandem of English and Roach, who outlasted Cam Pavelschak and Shawn Wienstroer, 3-6, 6-4, 10-2.
"Though we only had the one win against Mascoutah, it came at a big spot in the lineup," Pellock said. "Mascoutah is both a conference and sectional team, and a win at that spot is a statement from those two that they can be a contender in doubles. It was extremely windy conditions, and after we were able to hang on to win the second set, we had the wind to start the super tiebreaker and took complete advantage to gain a 6-0 lead. That seemed to deflate Mascoutah, and Andrew and Nathaniel did not let their lead slip."
In the 3-6 defeat to Waterloo, Highland received wins in singles from English (6-2, 6-1) and Roach (6-0, 6-3) and in doubles from the duo of English and Roach (6-2, 7-6).
And in the narrow 4-5 setback to Jerseyville, the Bulldogs split the singles matches with the Panthers 3-3, but Jerseyville won two of the three doubles matches to take the team match by one.
The Bulldogs got singles victories from English (6-0, 6-0), Roach (7-5, 6-0) and Allen (6-3, 6-4).
The lone triumph in doubles came courtesy of English and Roach (6-1, 6-1).