The Warren County High School boys tennis team hasn’t just cruised through the first of the season without a loss, it’s barely been tested on its way to a 6-0 record.
The Pioneers didn’t have the luxury of going through the motions on Tuesday when St. Andrew’s Sewanee paid a visit to Warren County. The Pioneers got some inspired play from deep in their lineup to come up with a 5-4 win and run their unbeaten streak to seven games.
Coach David Dunlap faced a lineup shift before action even began at McMinnville Civic Center, as coach Dunlap’s star junior Thomas Locke was absent for the match. Locke is the team’s No. 3 singles player and is part of one of the state’s best doubles pair, so his absence meant other players would need to step up.
Coach Dunlap has spoken all season about the impressive depth of his team, but it wasn’t until Tuesday until the back end of the lineup had to come up with big wins. The Pioneers got a match-clinching singles win from junior Austin Sauer, while Mitchell Fuqua and Nat Treratanaphan paired for a doubles win. Coach Dunlap was thrilled with his team’s win.
“We’re a deep team and Tuesday proved it,” said Dunlap. “Austin came through to help us win today.”
Sauer, playing in just his second varsity singles match this season, defeated Joel Lee 8-1 in the final singles match to give the Pioneers the victory.
Sauer’s big victory came shortly after Treratanaphan and Fuqua paired to defeat Lee and Slater Goodson in a doubles match. The doubles set went to tiebreakers, with the Pioneers winning 9-8 on the second tiebreaker.
While the bottom of the lineup gave Warren County a big jolt, it was the familiar faces at the top of coach Dunlap’s lineup who kept the Pioneers steady at the beginning of Tuesday’s action.
Sophomore Shunsuke Nakashima and junior Seth Grissom had big singles wins, then paired to win a doubles match to give Warren County three of its five wins.
Nakashima, the Pioneers top singles player, ran his record to 6-0 by defeating Justin Stubblefield 8-6. Nakashima struggled with Stubblefield, including having his serve broken to tie the match at five. It would be just the motivation Nakashima needed, as he rallied to win three of the next four games.
Grissom also had his hands full in the No. 2 singles match, playing Sewanee’s Harry Zhu. Grissom prevailed 8-5, which also gave him an undefeated singles record of 6-0.
Though Nakashima and Grissom played close singles matches against Stubblefield and Zhu, it didn’t translate when the duos stepped on the court for doubles. Nakashima and Grissom dispatched Stubblefield and Zhu 8-1.
Fuqua and Bryce Caten barely missed giving the Pioneers their elusive fifth win, which would have clinched a victory in the best-of-nine match. Fuqua was defeated by Pledger Schaefer 9-7 in a set which required an extra game to decide a winner, while Caten fell 8-6 to Martin Brownridge.
Warren County returned to the court yesterday to take on its District 6-AAA rival Coffee County. Scores from yesterday’s matches were unavailable at press time.
The Pioneers will have a week off before taking on Cumberland County next Thursday. The match on April 14 will be at McMinnville Civic Center and begins at 3:30 p.m.