BOURBON — Triton tennis bounced back from a pair of lopsided losses with a win over Tippecanoe Valley Tuesday night.
After defeats at the hands of Bethany Christian and John Glenn Saturday and Monday, the Trojans wound up on the right side of a 4-1 decision opposite the visiting Vikings in Bourbon.
“One thing I’ve been trying to preach to these kids is it doesn’t matter who their opponent is, don’t take them lightly. They can get surprised real quick, and by not taking them lightly and going out and hitting and playing the way we can, we can win. It’s just getting out there and starting out well,” said Triton head coach Al Peckham.
Connor Large at 2 singles and Triton’s 1 doubles team of Jared Bules and Tyler Heckaman clinched their matches at right around the same time to give the Trojans two of the three match points they needed for the team win. Both courts saw 6-1, 6-0 victories by the home team.
Large has been a rock for Triton, having been the Trojans’ only match point in each of its team losses to Bethany and Glenn.
“He’s just been steady, doesn’t do anything really super fancy,” explained Peckham of his No. 2. “He stays in it, and he’s just a battler. And I think that wears on the opponent because they get to the point where they’re saying ‘What does it take to get it by this guy?’ He just makes the other team really work for their points, and it wears them down.”
It only took about five more minutes for Cole McKinney and Chandler Westafer to put away Mason Purvis and Annakin Pettit, 6-1, 6-2 at the 2 doubles spot and finalize the Trojans’ team win. At 1 singles, Payton Mills battled back from a loss in the opening set and a 4-1 deficit in the second set taking two straight games from John Gardner, but Gardner held serve and broke Mills one final time to close out a 6-2, 6-3 win for Triton’s final match point of the evening.
“He’s been working on his serve. He’s basically trying to adjust it a little bit, and it seems like you struggle a little bit when you do an adjustment,” said Peckham of Gardner. “Right now I think it’s just a little bit of inconsistency with his toss now and then, but, other than that, once he does get it, he hits good.”
“Payton is always going to play hard. A lot of times he is the last one out there playing,” said Valley head coach Nick Kindig. “He works hard in the offseason, so it means a lot to him, and he wants to play his best whether our team is doing well or not. He brings it every night.”
The Vikings’ solitary match point in varsity play came at 3 singles, where Owen Kirchenstein held off Gavin Greer in the second set to put him away, 6-3, 7-6(5).
“This is Owen’s first year playing. He’s started out really well,” Kindig said. “He started out playing doubles for us, but he’s playing singles now. I like him at this spot. He’s been competitive all year. He’s improving.”
Kirchenstein is one of a host of new players for the 2019 Vikings, who had just three players last season. But Kindig and his players got to work recruiting over the past school year, and they were able to field not only a full varsity lineup but also two singles and one doubles junior varsity teams Tuesday, although the Trojans also had the run of play there, 2-1.
“Last year was my first year teaching, so I was able to be in their ear for a whole year, and a couple kids that I never talked to came out. We had Russell Paxton, who is a senior, that I just saw last year in the hallway all the time, and I’d say ‘Hey, you need to play tennis next year.’ It was a lot easier for me to be at the school and being able to recruit that way. And we had Payton Mills say ‘Hey Owen, you play,’ and then Owen would talk to somebody and get them to play,” recalled Kindig. “It helped me being a face to match up with the tennis program, and it’s awesome. It’s so much more enjoyable than last year.”