Hatchets earn sectional title

VINCENNES — After a sectional hiatus since the fall of 2015, the Washington Hatchet tennis team will be returning to the IHSAA regional next week.

WHS avenged a pair of recent sectional losses to Vincennes Rivet over the last two seasons with a 4-1 win under much cooler and breezy, conditions from the Wednesday semi-final win against Lincoln.

The sectional title is also the fifth since Jason Johnston took over in 2003.

“We have been hungry for this. Doubles got off the court pretty quick, which makes it a little easier from a coaching stand point, but by this time of the year, these guys know how to self-correct, so I thought they did a good job. I was proud of how everyone played. Drake Harman has lost two matches, but had another good match tonight. He is a senior and is hitting the ball cleanly, but he just found a guy who was able to use his pace against him,” said Johnston.

“Zach Gray has really tightened up his game plan. He is hitting the ball down the line and worked on his T-serve, and that has helped him shorten up some of his points because any time you get in an extended rally, it becomes anyone’s game. Both doubles teams played really nice matches.”

The Hatchets took the first two doubles matches quickly. The No. 2 doubles team of Jacob Rice and Jaylyn Rook took care of Rivet’s Luke Weiss and Payton Mayles in straight 6-0 and 6-0 sets in less than 45 minutes.

The No. 2 doubles team of Austin Gere and Owen Gray also picked up a quick 6-1 and 6-3 victory, over grant Freeman and Peyton Catt, to give WHS a 2-0.

However, Rivet picked up its first win in the No. 3 singles slot, as Charlie Niehaus defeated Washington’s Drake Harman, 6-1 and 6-1.

Washington then earned the sectional title as Zach Gray with a 6-1 and 6-4 victory over Sam Hinkle In the final slot, Hatchet Braden Kixmiller and Noah Donovan battled to a 7-6 tiebreak after a 4-6 and 6-3 set to secure the 4-1 win.

“Both of us made moves after the first time we played. We moved Braden from No. 1 doubles to 2 singles and I saw how that worked out well for both teams. We knew it would be close,” said Johnston.

Washington will move on to the Jasper Regional on Tuesday and face Bloomfield, who was a 3-2 winner over North Daviess at North Daviess.

Cards clip Cougars, 3-2

ELNORA — Bloomfield repeated as boys’ tennis Sectional 19 champions on Thursday evening at Tony Steele Courts, after defeating the host North Daviess Cougars, 3-2. The Cardinals, who knocked off ND last year in the finale, featured four seniors in their line-up while North Daviess trotted out three freshmen in their initial sectional final.

The Cardinals dominated the doubles portion, staking an early 2-0 team lead as ND’s Aric Wade/Devin Collins fell by the score of 0-6, 1-6 while teammates, Hayden Parisien/Brooks Helms, lost 2-6, 1-6. North Daviess grabbed some much-needed life when freshman No. 1 singles Jaylen Mullen took the proverbial rubber match against senior nemesis, Turner Royal, in straight sets 6-4, 6-4.

However, at the two positions, ND’s Markus Britton could not get untracked in a first set tie-breaker, losing the first set 6-7 (1). Meanwhile, another frosh, Colin Kemp, had also lost his first set, 4-6, but re-grouped to take the middle one, 6-1, to force a third. Britton’s momentum was squelched as sophomore lefty, Baylin Graf, continued to grind down his sophomore counterpart, eventually taking the sectional-clinching set, 3-6, to end the ND sophomore’s season. Kemp, down 0-3 in the final race to six, stormed back and rallied to win the final half-dozen games to take the third, 6-3.

For Bloomfield and Hall-of-Fame veteran mentor, Mike Canty, it was a case of his squad, particularly Graf, picking up the big points when necessary. The Cards improved to 14-5 in dual matches while the Cougars closed out a strong season at 18-6 with a sweep of the SWIAC regular season crown as well as a tennis program first, a ranking of seventh in District 7.

Mullen, who has put together a remarkable 21-3 slate in his first year on the hardcourts, including a school-record for season wins at the top spot, does advance into the next round of the individual IHSAA singles tourney. He will likely match up on Tuesday afternoon with Northeast Dubois senior ace, Reece Bauer, who comes in undefeated at the top spot.

ND head coach, Stephne Beard, reflected, “Markus gave us a great effort, and 1 and 3 singles played their hearts out. I wish we could have finished; it’s frustrating and tough when you have to say goodbye to two seniors. Jaylen beat a tough senior in Royal and out-played him at the end; he’s such a tough competitor.”

Loogootee also advanced past Northeast Dubois in the Loogootee Sectional, 3-2. Full results were not available at press time.

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