Boys Varsity Tennis · Stars stun Tigers to stay unbeaten

DOVER — All eyes were on the two doubles courts Thursday evening at Western Boone.

The host Stars were battling rival Lebanon, with the winner being in the drivers seat and the front-runner to win the Sagamore Conference title.

The Tigers won two of the three singles matches, so the Stars would have to win the third sets at both doubles matches to win the match.

They did just that, with Harrison Fields and Kaden Landers finishing off Luke Ferrell and Daniel Hood 6-3, 0-6, 6-4 and then the team of Chase Lee and Aidan Smith topping Drew Davidson and Nick Nies 4-6, 6-3, 6-3 to win the match, improving WeBo to 10-0 and 3-0 in the Sagamore.

“Both those doubles matches were incredible,” Western Boone head coach Dustin Cunningham said. “I said it last year when we lost a close match, this is what you want. Conference match, big rival, both teams undefeated on the year, and you couldn’t ask much more from either team. There was some really good tennis being played out there.”

It was the first loss of the season for Lebanon, who also dropped to 1-1 in the conference.

Head coach Joe LePage said the Stars just wanted it more on Thursday.

“WeBo made the plays they needed to,” LePage said. “I believe they played with more heart in this match and more effort. Those are things that shouldn’t have to be coached and stressed as much in a match like tonight, but credit to Western Boone, they made the plays when they counted.”

Thursday’s win was sweet redemption for Lee and Smith, who found themselves in a similar must win situation against Lebanon in the third set last year, but couldn’t come out on top.

Cunningham said both of the seniors played with a lot of maturity to get the win.

“They played fantastic,” Cunningham said. “The biggest difference from last year to this year with them is their patience. Last year every time they had an opportunity, they tried to hit a winner. This year, as seniors, they are setting up points, they are getting in good positions on the court and then put balls away. I couldn’t be more proud of them, especially since last year they felt like they let the team down.”

It was also a gut check win for Fields and Landers.

After winning the first set, Ferrell and Hood dominated the second set.

The teams remained on serve until 3-3 in the third, then the Stars took control.

“I’ll give credit to my assistant coach Dylan Hamerin, he brought them out before the match and worked with them for a solid half hour, just getting them to move and cover each other,” Cunningham said. “Those two carried over that work before the match. It was do-or-die for them, and they got the job done.”

LePage gave the WeBo doubles teams credit after the match, but admitted he was a little surprised that his senior-laden doubles teams weren’t able to pull off either third set.

“It is a little exasperating, and I’m at a loss for words to be honest,” LePage said. “Of all the seniors on our team that I thought would get up for this match, it would be our doubles. They are competitive in practice, they have a swagger about them and they are ready to meet a challenge. I was gobsmacked by the lack of focus and fire tonight and I don’t know what happened.”

At No. 1 singles Michael Wright defeated Keith Dobbs 6-1, 6-3.

At No. 2 singles, WeBo’s Tyler Brunty defeated Harrison Love 6-0, 6-2.

Lebanon also got a big win at No. 3 singles from John Gascho, who topped Zach Collins 6-1, 6-1.

“John is a guy who just plays his game,” LePage said. “He isn’t going to rethink it, he knows his strength and weaknesses, and will stay in his lane and not get outside himself. He played great.”

Things don’t get much easier for the Tigers.

Lebanon has to win out in conference to have a shot at the title, and hope Western Boone loses a match.

They also have some extremely tough non-conference games with Westfield, Zionsville, HSE and Delta.

“We get a unique opportunity to maybe make some tweaks in the line-up,” LePage said. “We have been thinking about it to be honest, and some things that happened tonight may push us to that. We have a chance to see if we have some guys that work well together in both doubles and singles, and put together our best line-up together for the end of the year.”

Western Boone is off until Tuesday against Danville.

Cunningham said he isn’t worried about a letdown after a big win.

“I don’t think they know any better,” Cunningham said. “I have coached a lot of years where we practiced really well, and then when the matches come, they don’t look good. This year is the exact opposite. They show up every match, and I’m hoping that confidence and swagger continues to carry over.”

Will Willems is the Sports Editor of the Lebanon Reporter and Zionsville Times Sentinel. Follow him on Twitter @Will_Willems.