Doubles Point Puts Broncos in Boys Final Versus Patriots; Bengals Win Deciding Match to Advance to Girls Final Against Stingrays at USTA National Spring Team Championships
©Colette Lewis 2017--
The doubles point is considered significant in a Division I college dual match, setting the tone and, in retrospect, providing a deciding point in a close match. Due to rain in the forecast for Tuesday at the USTA National Spring Team Championships, two rounds of singles matches were played Monday, and with the subsequently juggled schedule, the doubles were played last in the boys semifinals. The doubles point didn’t matter to the Patriots, who clinched their 4-3 win over the Rams prior to the doubles, but the Falcons and the Broncos split their singles matches, meaning the doubles point would decide who played in the finals.
Down 3-2 in singles, the Falcons’ Beau Pelletier ensured the doubles would matter, taking a 7-6(2), 7-6(4) win over the Broncos’ John Speicher at the 18s line 1. It was a grueling two and a half hour match, made all the more tense and challenging by gusty winds, but after a short rest, both players were back on the court for the deciding doubles.
Prospects appeared bright for the Falcons when they took a 4-0 lead in the 14s and were on serve in the 16s and 18s, but even the no-ad, one-set doubles format provided enough room for a Bronco comeback. Connor Krug and Isaac Smith somehow managed to win six games in a row from Falcons Chris Fok and Noah Gampel, and improbably were the first team to finish. By that time, Speicher and Andrew Rogers had gotten a break at No. 1 over Pelletier and Alexander Exsted, but could not close out the match, giving the Falcons new life. But Broncos 16s Harry Cacciatore and Cole Groetsch finished the job, breaking Evin McDonald and Alexander Kiefer to take the 6-4 decision and put their team in the final.
Broncos coach Bryan Minton said he was confident in his doubles teams, but well aware of the potential for the unexpected.
“I felt like we had the better doubles teams and I was excited about that,” said Minton, who is coaching in the tournament for the first time. “But obviously, you never know. It’s a six-game set, it’s no ad, and things could not go your way pretty quickly. We got down 4-0 in a heartbeat in our 14s, and I was nervous about that. I just kept telling the boys, take one point at a time, play your best shots, and they found a way to come back. So I had confidence, but yeah, those can go quickly the other way with just a little momentum.”
Minton, who is a partner at the MW Tennis Academy in Charleston, South Carolina, said he was excited to be invited to coach in the event.
“I’ve done zonals before, but it was a long time ago,” said Minton, who coached Shelby Rogers earlier in her career. “I’ve been doing more and more things with USTA Player Development camps, so I got an invitation to be a coach here and I jumped on it. I love this kind of atmosphere, it’s a blast. I always have a great time with the kids who end up on my teams. And one of my [academy] girls is here, so I was excited to get a chance to watch her as well.”
The Patriots, who are coached by Matthew Boughton, got wins from Jake Krug at the 14s line 2, Randy Cory at the 18s line 2, Nicolas Garcia at the 16s line 2, with Kevin Zhu clinching at the 18s line 1. The final will feature twins Jake and Connor Krug, but with Connor at 14s line 1 and Jake at 14s line 2 in singles, only the doubles will have them going head-to-head.
The girls semifinals, with the doubles played first, finished under the lights of the Mobile Tennis Center, with both the Stingrays and the Bengals posting 4-3 victories. Although all six girls matches played in the medallion bracket ended with 4-3 scores, not all came down to the last match on, with several clinched prior to the completion of all singles matches.
That was the case for the Stingrays, who led 3-2 before Rebecca Lynn clinched their place in the final with a 6-2, 6-2 win over the Angels’ Nore Ann Heinitz at the 14s line 2. The Stingrays had won two of three matches to take the doubles point, with all three doubles matches going to a tiebreaker. Kolie Allen and Catherine Gulihur picked up the other two singles points for the Stingrays, at the 18s lines 1 and 2. The Stingrays coach Chris Kwon will face fellow tournament rookie Seth Walrath of the Bengals, who did experience the stress of being on the sidelines of a last match on.
“She brought a lot of energy in that third set,” said Walrath, who works in Junior Development at the USTA Middle States section. “She lost energy in the second, but in the third, she got pumped up again and brought herself back to the level she had played at earlier. She stayed super positive.”
In his first experience with the National Team event, Walrath was impressed with how quickly his team came together.
“They jelled within the first hour,” Walrath said, showing off his tiger-striped ribbon tied around his wrist. “I coached Intersectionals in the 16s and at other national tournaments, but I hadn’t coached this tournament, so I didn’t know what to expect. But the format’s amazing, and as I said, we really had a lot of team chemistry and that goes a long way. You could see them all rooting for each other.”
The weather forecast for Tuesday currently shows a chance of rain all day, with the percentages highest in the late afternoon. If it holds off, both the doubles and singles will be played on Tuesday, but if it does not, the tournament will end as previously announced on Wednesday.
Results from all second round and third round matches can be found at the TennisLink site.