Kirchenstien captures winning point, leads Valley past RHS
Mills, Neese also win at singles; Zebras sweep doubles
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
AKRON –- The Tippecanoe Valley boys tennis team won all three singles matches in straight sets and beat visiting Rochester 3-2 at the Valley courts Monday.
RHS won both doubles matches in straight sets but fell to 2-2 overall and 2-2 in Three Rivers Conference play.
Payton Mills lost the first three games to Grant McCarter but came back and won 12 of the next 13 games to take a 6-4, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles. Mills had lost to fellow senior McCarter each of the last two years.
Dylan Neese took down Brayden Zink 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.
With the match tied 2-2, Owen Kirchenstien won the clinching point at No. 3 singles by beating Zak Daake 6-4, 6-4.
Brock Bowers and Kyle Reinartz were able to put away Ethan Hartman and Annakin Pettit 6-2, 7-5 at No. 1 doubles to tie the team score 2-2. The first RHS point came from Cody Smith and Drew Strasser, who beat Wyatt Reiter and Cooper Walls 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“This is my fourth year, and this is the first time we’ve beat them,” Valley coach Nick Kindig said. “First time we’ve really even been close with them. That was exciting. I’ve been telling the guys we’ve improved a lot, and we want to do some damage in the TRC. So that was exciting for us. I think the boys were really excited.”
Mills and McCarter are friends. Mills said he had never beaten McCarter before. He expected McCarter to come out aggressive. Mills said he also kept a loss to Lewis Cass last week in his mind after falling behind in the first set to McCarter.
“I was really looking forward to this match this year because it’s the last time we play, and I’ve known him all my life,” Mills said. “When I got down, I was pretty upset, but I learned from Lewis Cass, it was a super tiebreaker, I was up 9-2, and all I needed to do was score one, and he scored nine in a row and beat me. So I was pretty determined to come back. If someone can score nine in a row on me, I can do the same thing on someone else.”
Mills also said his wrist is feeling better. A wrist injury knocked him out for more than a week earlier in the season, but a healthier wrist meant that both his hard first serve and spinning second serve were more effective.
Meanwhile, Neese has a winning record after winning just two matches last year.
“He works at it big-time,” Kindig said of Neese.
The match between Kirchenstien and Daake was a match of unusual styles, according to Kindig. Daake often floated lobs at Kirchenstien on unusual occasions.
“Owen doesn’t like when people hit like that, but that’s kind of Owen plays,” Kindig said. “So it’s always kind of funny. He doesn’t like hearing that, but that’s a No. 3 singles way. Three singles play like that. There’s nothing wrong with that. It’s frustrating. But Owen did a good job tonight, where he was up early, and the kid made a little bit of a comeback and was able to put it away.”
RHS coach Jesse Atkinson praised his No. 2 doubles team, both of whom are varsity newcomers.
“They’re able to keep the ball in play,” RHS coach Jesse Atkinson said of Smith and Strasser. “I like some of the points they’ve been able to build and put together as a young No. 2 doubles team. I think there’s a whole lot of potential there with both players. Cody’s been playing tennis for a long time, and Drew maybe hasn’t been playing as much tennis, but he’s a very good athlete, and he’s very scrappy, and that’s a pretty good combination.”
This was the first of four matches in four days for the Zebras, who also have matches against conference rivals Peru and Whitko and sectional rival Knox this week.
“The compact nature of this particular season is getting to some guys,” Atkinson said. “I think we can turn it around with some of the matches that are still on the schedule. I have all the faith in the world in Grant McCarter. He’s a competitor.”
It was also the first time that Valley’s team had beaten RHS in any of the Valley players’ career.
“It’s pretty nice,” Mills said of the team’s win. “Senior year to go out with a bang.”
The Zebras won the JV match 3-1.
RESULTS: TIPPECANOE VALLEY 3, ROCHESTER 2
Payton Mills (TV) def. Grant McCarter (RHS), 6-4, 6-0
Dylan Neese (TV) def. Brayden Zink (RHS), 6-4, 6-3
Owen Kirchenstien (TV) def. Zak Daake (RHS), 6-4, 6-4
Brock Bowers-Kyle Reinartz (RHS) def. Ethan Hartman-Annakin Pettit (TV), 6-2, 7-5
Cody Smith-Drew Strasser (RHS) def. Wyatt Reiter-Cooper Walls (TV), 6-1, 6-1
JV RESULTS: RHS 3, VALLEY 1
Calen Campbell (RHS) def. Mason Purvis (TV), 8-2
Robert Bozzo (RHS) def. Brady Minix (TV), 8-0
Jake Freeman (RHS) def. Evan Harsh (TV), 8-0
Mason Purvis-Evan Harsh (TV) def. Cade Johnson-Caleb Wilson (RHS), 8-2