ALGONQUIN – The yearly Fox Valley Conference Valley Division boys tennis dual between Prairie Ridge and Jacobs is starting to take on a “same time next year” mentality.
Like a year ago, Monday’s dual was tied, 3-3, with one doubles match remaining. Last year, Prairie Ridge pulled out a three-set victory at No. 4 doubles to get the win. This season’s dual was decided by Prairie Ridge’s Garrett Locher and Matt Altman, who defeated Kyle Powell and Will Liby, 6-3, 6-4, at No. 2 doubles to give the Wolves a 4-3 win and keep them undefeated in the FVC Valley at 4-0.
With both teams on opposite ends of the court cheering on their No. 2 doubles teams, the intensity and pressure was ratcheted up several notches.
“I love playing in the pressure,” Altman said. “I like having the team supporting me.”
Locher said they had dealt with nail biters before and had learned not to get too up or too down on single points. He attributed some unforced errors late in the match more to bad footwork.
“That was me focusing more on my stroke than my feet,” Locher said. “And probably some tension with my team in front of us and Jacobs behind cheering.”
Both teams brought their own brand of strength to the dual. Jacobs with Kailash Panchepakesan at No. 1 and Kendrick Chong at No. 2 dominated in singles. And Matt Toomire and Riley Rowan won at No. 1 doubles for the Golden Eagles.
The win for Toomire and Rowan was important in the dual but even more important for the upcoming FVC tournament.
“These guys are definitely one of the top teams in the conference,” Toomire said. “We knew we had to win this one.”
“It was for sure a big win,” Rowan added. “They’re solid.”
Eagles coach Jon Betts said Toomire and Rowan have made great strides this season as a doubles team.
“It was two separate players playing singles,” Betts said of Toomire and Rowan’s early doubles play. “Now they’re really feeling each other’s movement well.”
But it was Prairie Ridge’s depth that was the difference. Aaditya Rawal won at No. 3 singles for the Wolves. In doubles, Andy Park and Jared Priesz won at No. 3, and Steve Diklich and Joey Weissmann won at No. 4.
Prairie Ridge coach Jim Benson said he was impressed with Rawal making adjustments during the match to get the 6-4, 6-3 win against Michael Bujacz.
“My [No.] 3 singles player played awesome,” Benson said. “[Rawal] has been kind of cruising through matches. He had a really good challenge.”
As Jacobs’ coach last year, Benson has been on both sides of the dual. He said a few points either way could have changed the outcome.
“This was a battle,” Benson said. “It just goes to show how close our programs are.”