Rochester beats Knox, advances to sectional final
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
KNOX –- The Rochester boys tennis team beat Knox, the fading daylight and the temperamental weather Wednesday.
Their opponent today figures to be even more difficult than that.
RHS was able to pull off a 5-0 win over host Knox in a sectional semifinal to improve to 4-6 and set them up for a sectional final showdown with 16-time defending sectional champ Culver Academy at 5:30 p.m. Eastern.
Grant McCarter completed the sweep with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 win over Devan Himes at No. 1 singles. After Himes routed McCarter in the second set, McCarter recovered to win the first three games of the third set, mixing in the occasional serve-and-volley point and also using better movement.
Himes got back within 3-2, but McCarter held him off for the win.
“Tennis is just like many sports,” RHS coach Jesse Atkinson said. “It’s a game of footwork and making sure your feet are where they need to be, so as to set up yourself for as easy as possible points to win. That kind of got away from Grant a little bit there in the second set. He found it back in the third, so better late than never.”
The other match to go three sets occurred at No. 3 singles, where Zak Daake rallied past Colin Bottorff 4-6, 6-4, 6-0.
“That’s the Zak Daake we know and love,” Atkinson said. “He’s willing to chase around the court all over the place and chase down every ball and somehow, someway hit it back. That’s the mantra of Zak Daake: Just hit it back. … He was able to grind one out tonight, and we’re really proud of him for that.”
Brayden Zink was first off the court with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Brandon Fifer at No. 2 singles.
“A lot of good footwork, a lot of good groundstrokes,” Atkinson said of Zink. “He’s trying to step away from letting the moment or the point be bigger than what it is and just play tennis in the way that he can and quite frankly what got him to the position he is in our lineup.”
Cody Smith and Drew Strasser gave RHS a second team point with a 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 2
Brock Bowers and Kyle Reinartz squandered a match point on Reinartz’s serve at 5-4 in the second set before breaking back to get to 6-5 and sealing the match on Bowers’ serve.
Bowers and Reinartz are 7-3 on the season.
Bowers is a first-time varsity player. Reinartz played doubles two years ago but played singles last year. He said he had to “refresh my memory” as to how to play doubles and the strategy involved.
“I thought me and Brock found it pretty fast,” Reinartz said of developing chemistry with Bowers. “I think we have a good connection. I have fun when we’re playing out on the court.”
Bowers called playing with Reinartz, who stands 6-4, “energetic” and a “good time.”
“My groundstrokes have had to get a lot better,” Bowers said. “Because if Kyle’s mostly at the net, and if I get a great serve, and they barely hit it, he can just slam it down.”
The two semifinals were held in windy, chilly, overcast conditions with temperatures hovering around 60 degrees.
This marked the seventh straight year that the Zebras drew Knox in the sectional. RHS is 5-2 in those seven matches, also eliminating Knox in 2014, 2016, 2017 and 2019.
RHS also beat Knox 5-0 in their regular season meeting on Sept. 17.
Culver Academy beat North Judson 5-0 in the other semifinal. Culver Academy has won each of their previous 16 sectional titles at home. They are not hosting the sectional this year for the first time since their run of sectional titles began.
RESULTS: ROCHESTER 5, KNOX 0
Grant McCarter (RHS) def. Devan Himes (KNOX), 6-2, 0-6, 6-4
Brayden Zink (RHS) def. Brandon Fifer (KNOX), 6-0, 6-0
Zak Daake (RHS) def. Colin Bottorff (KNOX), 4-6, 6-4, 6-0
Brock Bowers-Kyle Reinartz (RHS) def. Carter Fornelli-Gabe Manning (KNOX), 6-2, 7-5
Cody Smith-Drew Strasser (RHS) def. Bryan Branham-Shadow Craft (KNOX), 6-2, 6-4