Bowers triumphs in No. 2 singles marathon, leads Rochester past Valley
Strasser, Bozzo-Freeman tandem also win for Zebras; Neese, Pettit-Walls win at No. 1 doubles
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
Rochester junior Brock Bowers ended a long day of tennis with a win in the longest match of his life.
Doing it in the deciding match against the Zebras’ archrival only made it as satisfying as it was exhausting.
Bowers earned the clinching point for the Zebras in their 3-2 win over Tippecanoe Valley at the RHS courts with a 5-7, 6-3, 6-3 win over Cam Manuel at No. 2 singles.
Bowers lost the first two games in the third set but came back to win five games in a row. Manuel held serve in the eighth game to stay alive before Bowers served it out.
Rochester’s other points came from Drew Strasser at No. 3 singles and Robert Bozzo and Jake Freeman at No. 2 doubles.
Strasser beat Wyatt Reiter 6-3, 6-1. Bozzo and Freeman blanked Brady Minix and Tristyn Ragon 6-0, 6-0.
Valley’s wins came at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles.
Dylan Neese rallied from a 1-5 deficit in the second set to close out Brayden Zink 7-5, 7-5 at No. 1 singles. Annakin Pettit and Cooper Walls pulled through in a first-set tiebreak before pulling away to defeat Cody Smith and Tanner Reinartz 7-6 (5), 6-1.
Only the No. 2 doubles match was done within an hour. The other four matches lasted at least an hour and 35 minutes.
By the end, Bowers vs. Manuel had engrossed players, coaches and observers from both sides in what turned out to be a two-and-a-half hour marathon that would decide the team victory.
Bowers and Manuel routinely engaged each other in long rallies. Bowers often hit from the baseline while volleying selectively. Manuel, a lefty, hit forehands almost exclusively. He would run around to his forehand side to seemingly avoid using his backhand but also stayed consistent enough to create a compelling battle with Bowers.
“I thought that I would be able to come back, and I did,” Bowers said. “Well, it’s a mind game. I knew I could win from the start. I just had trouble getting comfortable.”
Bowers was asked about fatigue afterwards.
“I’m really tired, but I’m happy,” Bowers said.
Said Valley coach Nick Kindig of Manuel: “He played pretty well. It was a good back-and-forth match. Just a few points here and there went their way. But Cam’s a competitor. He battles. He leaves it all out there. So it’s tough. I’m sure he’s going to be frustrated, but he played really well.”
Strasser impressed coach Jesse Atkinson with his ability to close out Reiter.
“It’s sometimes easy to come out and have a solid first set and kind of ease off and kind of back down a little bit,” Atkinson said. “He didn’t do that at all. He did a great job of getting that second set, which is really the most important set. He did a great job tonight.”
Atkinson also praised Bozzo and Freeman for capitalizing on mistakes.
“That’s something we try and talk a lot about in practice,” Atkinson said. “If opponents are going to make mistakes like that, you have to take advantage of that. They do a great job of really kind of closing out those points and taking advantage of any mistakes that their opponents make. Not just tonight. You saw it tonight for sure, but they do a good job of really coming through each and every night and making the most of every single point and every single opportunity they have to hit the ball back to their opponents or put it away.”
Kindig credited Neese for making an adjustment to his serve to beat Zink. Neese played with power, and Zink countered by using Neese’s pace against him by placing topspin forehands to extend rallies.
The No. 1 doubles match was a credit to Pettit and Walls’ selective aggressiveness at the net. On occasion, they would both play back. But when they picked their spots for their volleys, they became more effective.
“The first set, they were more aggressive at the net,” Kindig said. “I’m always talking to them about being aggressive when they get to the net. Annakin’s really aggressive always at the net. But just playing under control and keeping it away from that net person, and when you have that chance to go to the net, take advantage of it. They did that in the tiebreaker and then all of the second set.”
RESULTS: ROCHESTER 3, TIPPECANOE VALLEY 2
Dylan Neese (TV) def. Brayden Zink (RHS), 7-5, 7-5
Brock Bowers (RHS) def. Cam Manuel (TV), 5-7, 6-3, 6-3
Drew Strasser (RHS) def. Wyatt Reiter (TV), 6-3, 6-1
Annakin Pettit-Cooper Walls (TV) def. Tanner Reinartz-Cody Smith (RHS), 7-6 (5), 6-1
Robert Bozzo-Jake Freeman (RHS) def. Brady Minix-Tristyn Ragon (TV), 6-0, 6-0
Brock Bowers Dylan Neese