On a damp, gloomy day that was better suited for ducks, a group of determined Eagles soared to their first win of the season.
Coach Randy Draper’s Grain Valley High School tennis team blanked visiting William Chrisman 9-0 Thursday afternoon at home.
While the Bears did not win a match, they made the Eagles work for many of their wins, which brought a smile to the face of coach Jason Grubb.
“Despite the outcome today, I saw a lot of growth, a lot of positive things,” said Grubb, who went from court to court encouraging his Bears. “I want to develop a smart team, a hustling team, like Coach Draper’s team.
“He’s such a great coach – he’s going to always give his kids an edge because they are going to outfox a lot of their opponents. They play smart – just like their coach. But I was so proud of our guys, too. We had so many close matches, and we played hard until the end.”
And by the end, Grubb meant the very end. No. 5 singles player Brandon Kuhlman lost a marathon match to Grain Valley’s Tristin Whitton 11-10 (7-2 tiebreaker) to close out the nearly three-hour dual with the Eagles.
“The match was determined a long time ago,” Whitton said, “but all the guys and coaches from both teams were cheering for both of us and that just made both of us work that much harder.”
When asked about the 1-4 Eagles first win of the season, Whitton added, “It feels great. We’ve come close a few times, and finally getting it done today feels so good.”
No. 1 singles player Joel Florida and No. 3 singles player Trent Tarrants had exciting singles matches for the Eagles, and teamed to claim an 8-3 win at No. 1 doubles.
“We got off to a slow start this year, but we’ve played better every match this season,” said Florida, who topped Sam Hawley in singles play. “I used my forehand a lot today, because I wasn’t playing consistent tennis – but I found a way to win, and that’s what’s important.”
Tarrants was down 9-3 against Jordan Twenter at No. 3 singles and clawed his way back to an 11-9 win.
“I play better when the pressure is on, and it was really on today,” Tarrants said. “I had to change my game plan, my style of play, to take away the best part of his game and I had to control my emotions.
“My serve wasn’t the best today, but I won on my serve and that made it an even better victory.”
Grain Valley’s Dean Moberly blanked Adam Hamilton 10-0 at No. 2 singles, Bryson Martin won 10-2 against Cayson Woods at No. 4 and No. 6 Brady Slater enjoyed a 10-1 win over Jakob Scott.
Moberly and Martin won 8-6 against Twenter and Kuhlman at No. 2 doubles and Whitton and Slater won 8-1 against Scott and Colton Kerr at No. 3.
“You can take a lot of positives out of some of our close matches, but you can take a lot more positives out of a win like we got today,” Draper said. “We’re getting better and Jason’s kids are getting better too.
“There were a lot of close, very good matches today. I think both teams can feel good about the way they played. It’s just great to get that first win and build on it from here.”