Freeman, Morgan’s comeback win at No. 2 doubles completes Zebra win over Valley
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON — Robert Bozzo was there to help take some pressure off Brayden Zink’s arm, and it might be considered symbolic of what life is like on the Rochester boys tennis team.
Just as Bozzo and Zink were able to keep stress off each other, the Rochester players worked to alleviate each other’s problems and made enough adjustments to beat host Tippecanoe Valley 4-1 on Sept. 15.
Rochester improved to 8-1 and finished Three Rivers Conference play 4-1. Their only loss was to Peru at home on Sept. 1. Peru has already clinched the conference title.
Robert Bozzo and Brayden Zink rolled over Annikan Pettit and Cody Smith 6-3, 6-0 at No. 1 doubles for the first point. Luke Hunting then beat Wyatt Reiter 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles for the second point.
Tanner Reinartz clinched the win with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Cam Manuel at No. 2 singles.
Dylan Neese overcame leg cramps and relied on a sharp topspin forehand to beat Rochester’s Brock Bowers 6-2, 2-6, 6-3 at No. 1 singles.
Rochester’s Jake Freeman and Brady Morgan rallied from a set down to beat Tristyn Ragon and Cooper Walls 5-7, 7-5, 6-3 in the final match of the night at No. 2 doubles.
Zink played No. 1 singles last year but has moved to No. 1 doubles. Also a pitcher on the Rochester baseball team, playing doubles means serving less, which removes pressure off the arm.
Bozzo saw time at No. 2 doubles last year, but he and Zink had never played together prior to this year. Pettit was one of RTC’s Players of the Year in 2021, but Bozzo said they varied their strategy more than a typical match.
“It was a lot different,” Bozzo said. “Brayden and I have developed hand signals, being in different places on the court and making our opponents think a little bit more. We didn’t really do it as much tonight because we were just playing good as is, so we didn’t really switch it up.”
Smith transferred from Rochester to Valley after last year. He played No. 1 doubles for the Zebras last year.
“We didn’t want to after winners necessarily as much tonight,” Zink said. “We just wanted to let them make mistakes.”
Bozzo said he “couldn’t hit a volley to save my life” at the start of the year. Now he’s often putting away volley winners thanks to Zink’s serve.
“There’s a bone fracture,” Zink said. “Part of the bone came off my elbow, so they wanted me to reduce my serving, so I’d be ready in the spring for baseball. But it’s been great. We’ve had a great season together, and I’ve really enjoyed it.”
Reinartz was down 3-4 in the first set before winning nine of the final 11 games using his aggressive serve-and-volley style. Manuel is a lefty who runs around to his forehand side and rarely hits a backhand.
“Tanner was very defensive coming out,” Rochester interim coach Mason Heyde said. “We haven’t been able to hit much in the last week because of weather and storms and stuff. We did get to play Whitko last night, and Tanner was defensive there and got the win there, but he still didn’t really find his stride until that second set.”
Hunting was able to keep Reiter beyond the baseline with both his forehand and backhand.
“We’ve been working on getting Luke’s groundstrokes deeper in the court,” Heyde said. “It’s been a struggle, but he’s starting to do it. Yeah, a good win for him. Good confidence. Last night (against Whitko) was an opponent that didn’t give him a lot of practice. … I was curious to see how he did, but he handled it well.”
Freeman has rotated partners between Harrison Dunwoody and Morgan. His win with Morgan against the Valley duo – Walls shared RTC player of the year with Pettit last year – might be a sign of growing confidence.
“Again, they were a little defensive early on, missing some shots and then gaining some confidence,” Heyde said. “Jake got hurt in the middle of the second set, but we taped him up, and I changed him up, and even when Jake was returning serve, I told him to get to the net as fast as possible and get Brady deeper. So that way, Jake wasn’t running baseline because, you know, you’ve got a lot more ground to cover there, so I was trying to get him at the net as soon as possible to save his ankle. I told him, ‘We’d love to win, but don’t hurt yourself.’”
Valley coach Clayton Adamson was unavailable for comment.
Results: Rochester 4, Tippecanoe Valley 1
Dylan Neese (TV) def. Brock Bowers (RHS), 6-2, 2-6, 6-3
Tanner Reinartz (RHS) def. Cameron Manuel (TV), 6-4, 6-2
Luke Hunting (RHS) def. Wyatt Reiter (TV), 6-3, 6-1
Robert Bozzo-Brayden Zink (RHS) def. Annikan Pettit-Cody Smith (TV), 6-3, 6-0
Jake Freeman-Brady Morgan (RHS) def. Tristyn Ragon-Cooper Walls (TV), 5-7, 7-5, 6-3