By JAMES COSTELLO
The streak had to end some time.
After enjoying a decade of uninterrupted IHSAA Logansport Boys Tennis Sectional championships, Twin Lakes was finally toppled 3-2 in its first-round sectional match against Carroll on Wednesday.
Chalk up the Indians upset to inexperience.
Last year’s championship squad was composed exclusively of seniors and they have all moved on. None of the Twin Lakes players at Logan on Wednesday had any varsity experience prior to this season, and therefore none of them had any sectional experience prior to Wednesday’s match against Carroll.
There is even a new coaching staff, including coach Stacy Pollard, although she was an assistant coach to the team last year. Add to that Twin Lakes’ traditional dominance at the tournament and all of the weighty expectations that come with that tradition, and the result was almost bound to be a Carroll win.
But the Cougars — who proceed at the tournament to face Lewis Cass today — deserve much of the credit for their victory as well.
Carroll junior Kevin Ives commanded at No. 1 singles, beating Twin Lakes’ Tyler Royse 6-2, 6-0 for his team’s first win of the day.
“I sort of picked on his backhand throughout the match,” said Ives. “I thought his forehand was pretty strong, but I knew if I could make him go to his backhand I’d have the advantage.”
The match was decided before it was ever over, as the animated Royse became visibly frustrated midway through the first set and began making errors, and Ives capitalized on his opponents’ frustration with cool, collected play and smart ball placement. Hoping to end the match early, Ives jumped all over Royse in the second set and swept up the set in six games.
Ives is 0-4 in three-set matches this season, and he knew coming into the match that the outcome could depend on his ability to put Royce away quickly.
“I really wanted to get up on him,” said Ives. “Especially in the second set, I wanted to get up 3-0 or so just so I could feel secure. I really wanted to put a stamp on it, I guess you could say.”
One match that did go the distance and ended up costing Carroll was in No. 3 singles play.
Twin Lakes’ Stephen Healy and Carroll’s Carson Spesard endured a close three-set match, but Healy battled back from a 6-0 loss in the first set to take a 7-6 (11-9) second set tiebreaker win and a 6-2 victory in the finale.
Endurance apparently made much of the difference in the No. 3 singles match as Pollard said Healy has split several sets throughout the season and was therefore better prepared to go the distance. He also appeared to get in Spesard’s head in the second set, as the lanky Carroll sophomore banged his racket and rolled his head in frustration after the tiebreaker. Spesard failed to use his height advantage through solid net play, and Healy capitalized on the lapse with an eventual win.
“I just told him as tall as he is, I’d like to see him at the net a lot more, and I’d like to see him at the net a lot sooner,” said Carroll coach Jerry Reinke. “He might take a shot and then let it get returned before going to the net. As tall as he is, he should take advantage of that height.”
Healy’s and Spesard’s match was the final match of the day, lasting for more than two hours, and both teams lined the fences to watch the result. But the outcome was strictly academic at that point, as Carroll had already sown up victories in No. 1 and 2 doubles play, along with Ives’ singles victory, for the team win.
After Ives’ match, Carroll took its first loss of the day in No. 2 singles as Travis Burghardt kept Cory Johnson off balance with strong topspin and good shot placement for a 6-3, 6-1 win. Burghardt got fired up after taking the first set and utilized some quickness to outpace the slower Johnson for the lopsided second set victory.
In No. 1 doubles, Carroll juniors Chase McCain and Jacob Craig outplayed Twin Lakes’ freshman tandem of Zakk Sparks and Michael Burke 6-2, 6-3. McCain and Craig jumped off to an early lead in the first set and rode the momentum out for the win. The momentum shifted in the second set as Sparks and Burke took a couple sets, but the Cougars fought back to put them away for good.
In Carroll’s final win of the day, the No. 2 doubles tandem of freshman Isaiah Stevens and junior Seth Pencek secured a surprise victory over Twin Lakes sophomores Ryan Amsler and A.J. Ellis in two even 6-4 sets.
Reinke said it was intensity that made the difference in Wednesday’s No. 2 doubles match.
On Tuesday night, the Cougars No. 2 duo took a loss to Lafayette Central Catholic in which they played lackadaisically. Carroll’s coach asked them to get fired up for sectional play and they apparently answered his call with a victory that made the difference between Cougar advancement and elimination.
The No. 2 doubles win also gives Carroll hope in for its match against Lewis Cass today.
In August, the Kings handed the Cougars a 4-1 loss as Ives captured the only win at No. 1 singles. The No. 3 singles match was close in the two teams’ first meeting, so that has the potential to go either way as well. Wins by both Spesard and Ives could push Carroll over the top if its No. 2 doubles team continues to perform.
“I expect a really good match at No. 1 singles, and at 3 singles we had a close match, it went three sets,” said Reinke. “We’re going to have to play some darn good tennis to beat Lewis Cass, which tonight my doubles team looked really good.”
By JAMES COSTELLO
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