• Val T.

Rochester sweeps Knox, advances to sectional final

BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS

Sports Editor, RTC

CULVER –- Jake Freeman is the joystick. Robert Bozzo is the video game character that he moves around.

Well, sometimes, depending on whom you ask.

They are the Rochester boys tennis team’s No. 2 doubles partnership, and it worked again as the Zebras beat Knox 5-0 in a sectional semifinal at Culver Academy Sept. 29.

Rochester improved to 8-4 and earned a spot in the final against the host Eagles on Sept. 30.

Culver Academy, in search of their 18th consecutive sectional title, routed North Judson 5-0 in the other semifinal.

Rochester didn’t lose a set in their five matches against Knox. The closest they came to losing a set came in the No. 2 doubles match, when Bozzo and Freeman were deadlocked 5-5 in the first set against Coy Taulbee and Alexander Turner.

But Freeman sent a precise service return winner on break point past the Redskin net man and down the line for a winner. Freeman pumped his fist. Bozzo and Freeman led 6-5 and then served out the set.

Bozzo and Freeman went on to win 7-5, 6-1. Their only loss this season was to a Peru team that won its conference and sectional titles.

And it gave Freeman time to make it back to school for his choir concert.

Freeman said he and Bozzo were “not awake” in the first set.

“We have pretty good communication, and we’re pretty fluent with each other,” Freeman said. “I say, ‘Up, back, left, right.’ It’s like he’s my video game character. I don’t realize I say it half the time because I’m in the zone. I get made fun of by everybody. But I don’t really care at this point. So it’s just fun and games.”

Bozzo and Freeman are both first-year varsity players. He called this year “great.” He said he and Freeman didn’t have as much chemistry at the beginning of the year, but they have built their chemistry and communication up over time.

Bozzo smiled when he heard what Freeman said.

“He’s the talkative one,” Bozzo said. “Whenever he says something, I normally do the opposite of what he says. So I don’t really listen to him.”

In the other doubles match, Tanner Reinartz and Cody Smith beat Colin Bottorff and Brayden Branham 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles. Reinartz and Smith both exhibited strong serves and appeared to excel when the match became a baseline battle in the middle of the first set.

“Cody and Tanner don’t always necessarily win a lot of matches based off groundstrokes,” Rochester coach Jesse Atkinson said. “They do a great job at the net, and they usually do a phenomenal job putting balls away. … But at that point of the match, they turned some things around and figured some things out with their groundstrokes, and they’re doing a great job of putting away points with their groundstrokes, which was a welcome sight to see.”

The Zebras yielded just six games in six sets in three singles matches.

Brayden Zink handcuffed Gabriel Manning 6-2, 6-0 with topspin forehands and slice backhands at No. 1 singles.

“Brayden was on tonight,” Atkinson said. “That’s as well as I’ve seen Brayden play in awhile.”

Brock Bowers handled Carter Fornelli 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles. Drew Strasser won the last 11 games and beat Isaiah Heineman 6-2, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.

“It’s been kind of a weird two weeks weather-wise,” Atkinson said. “We haven’t gotten out and played a lot of tennis. We haven’t played a match for quite some time at this point. There’s a lot that comes into play. ... I think Drew was forced into playing a more patient game, and he embraced it and did a good job of closing out.”

Results: Rochester 5, Knox 0

Singles

Brayden Zink (RHS) def. Gabriel Manning (KNOX), 6-2, 6-0

Brock Bowers (RHS) def. Carter Fornelli (KNOX), 6-1, 6-1

Drew Strasser (RHS) def. Isaiah Heineman (KNOX), 6-2, 6-0

Doubles

Tanner Reinartz-Cody Smith (RHS) def. Colin Bottorff-Brayden Branham (KNOX), 6-4, 6-2

Robert Bozzo-Jake Freeman (RHS) def. Coy Taulbee-Alexander Turner (KNOX), 7-5, 6-1


Jake Freeman Robert Bozzo



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