By Dave Pearce
Seven matches into this year’s North Posey Viking tennis season, very few people would have thought the North Posey Vikings would be a factor in the sectional, much less be in contention for the title and playing in the championship match. After all, the Vikings were winless in their first seven outings.
Ironically, it would be the same team the Vikings beat for their first win in the regular season that would take them down in the sectional final Thursday evening.. The homestanding Princeton Tigers edged the Vikings 3-2 to take the sectional crown and move on to regional action this week.
But the energized Vikings did anything but make a quiet exit as on the opening night of the sectional, they defeated 13-2 defending sectional champion Gibson Southern in a close 3-2 match. The Titans had their way with the Pocket Athletic Conference this year, going through all comers with an 8-0 record. But on Wednesday, it would be the Vikings who would be the team standing when the war was over.
“This was probably the most intense match I have ever been involved in coaching,” North Posey Coach Brandon Barrett commented during the match against the Titans.
North Posey’s No. 1 singles player, Kyle Voegel, although a good player in his own right, kept Gibson Southern’s Cody Mann on the court longer than most thought, finally falling 6-2, 6-3.
But it was No. 2 and No. 3 singles where the Vikings excelled as steady Reed Gertiesen (17-6) defeated Josh Gifford by a 6-2, 6-0 count. Jan-Philipp Eckert (9-4) won the first set fairly easily 6-2 before letting the boisterous cries of the Gibson Southern faithful perhaps get into his head a little bit, falling behind 3-0 in the second set. The Viking foreign exchange student came back to win the second set 6-4 to give the Vikings a 2-1 edge heading into the doubles competition.
The No. 2 doubles pair of Christian Jones and Grant Scheller played one of their finest matches of the year, defeating Ryan Smith and Kyle Tretter by scores of 6-2, 6-4 to sew up a spot in the finals. The Viking No. 1 doubles team of Griffin Motz and Drake Davenport (15-7) struggled against the Titans’ Josh Nurrenbern and Sam Gruebel before falling in a pair of tie-breakers, 7-6 (1), and 7-6 (2).
But on Thursday, Princeton Coach Matt Moade had his team ready. His team stacked up well against the Vikings as his strongest players were at the same spots as the Vikings’ strongest players and the Vikings fell in the title contest 3-2.
“To tell you the truth, I thought we were going to match up a little bit better with Princeton than we did with Gibson,” Viking Coach Brandon Barrett said. “We had beaten them 3-2 in the regular season. But I didn’t know what to expect from the guys after they had fought very hard the night before to get to the finals and Princeton had a relatively easy draw against Tecumseh. I didn’t know if our guys had left it all on the court against Gibson or if they were going to come out and play hard like we did against Gibson. But Princeton’s doubles teams were really clicking. They were not making mistakes. We were making the unforced errors and that’s what it came down to.”
Typically, Princeton Coach Matt Moade, a accomplished player himself, puts his strongest players in the doubles spots and then hopes to get a single win out of one of his three singles players. That was the case against the Vikings.
The Vikings got wins at No. 2 and No. 3 singles and had hoped to find another win somewhere in the line-up but it was not to be, at least not this year.
“I thought we had a real shot,” an obviously disappointed Barrett said following the match. “I thought we would get No. 2 and No. 3 singles. We just needed a win out of one of the doubles teams or Kyle at no. 1 singles. But they were ready for us and they took it to us.”
The Tigers were playing on their home court but the draw was just what Barrett had hoped for.
“I wanted to play Gibson first because I thought that the championship went through them,” he said. “I thought that if we could beat them we would have an excellent shot. But it was tough. Beating a 13-2 team took a lot out of us, both physically and emotionally. I think we were just out of energy and just a step behind Princeton. We tried to the last point in every match. It is hard to beat a good team twice in a year and they were out to get us. They knew we were their first win early in the year.”
But the Vikings, a very young team, gained valuable experience and for first-year head coach Barrett, set expectations high for next season.
“We were highly disappointed after the match but I tried to remind the guys that we did win the Gibson Southern Invitational, we got seven wins, winning seven of the last 11,” Barrett said. “There were some very strong points in the season that we need to take into next year. Who knows, we may be competing for a sectional title again next year.”
By Dave Pearce
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