The past two years, the Warren County High School boys tennis team has won the District 6-AAA tournament, only to be beaten by McMinn County in the regional tournament.
This season had a different feel though. The Pioneers had home court and Cleveland was the new opponent. Despite playing a great match, the same result followed Warren County in regional play. The Pioneers lost 4-3 in a best-of-seven match against Cleveland.
Coach David Dunlap thought even though his team lost, the Pioneers had no reason to doubt their play.
“The boys played great,” said Dunlap. “We are disappointed, but we feel like we played our best.”
Cleveland took advantage of the seeding system to pick up three singles victories, then the deciding match went the Blue Raiders way as Alex Klibisz and Roy Callahan defeated Pioneer seniors Will Marttala and Austin Sauer 8-5.
Klibisz was the top player for Cleveland and started the day by defeating Thomas Locke 6-0, 6-1, in the No. 1 singles match.
Mitchell Fuqua tied the match score at one when the Pioneer senior defeated Westin Laing 6-0, 6-2.
Cleveland gained the upper hand when Jake Gibson, arguably the Blue Devils second-best singles player, beat freshman Jake Hunt 6-1, 6-0, in the No. 5 singles match.
Seth Grissom had a great chance to even the match in No. 2 singles, but a few unfortunate calls went against the Pioneers. Grissom won the first set against Zach Barringer 6-1, but lost a hard-fought second set 7-6 on a tiebreaker.
Grissom took a 3-1 lead in the third set, but Barringer battled back to even it at four as coaches had to observe the match after line judges were requested following a series of close calls.
Barringer took the final two games, winning the decisive set 6-4 to give Cleveland a 3-1 match lead.
Bryce Caten made sure the match went into doubles play when he beat Callahan. Caten won the first set 6-2, but lost the second set on a tiebreaker. With the match hanging in the balance, Caten won the third set 6-3.
In doubles play, coach Dunlap put his top two players in the No. 1 doubles match, while Cleveland sent its No. 2 and No. 5 player.
Locke and Grissom defeated Barringer and Gibson 8-5, setting up a final doubles game to decide the fate of the match.
Marttala and Sauer took on Callahan and Klibisz, one of the top players in the state. The senior Pioneer duo played well, but Klibisz and Callahan proved too strong in the end.
It was the last match for Marttala, Sauer and Fuqua as the seniors leave Warren County with three straight District 6-AAA championships.
Locke, Grissom and Caten will resume play tomorrow when the three Pioneers compete in the individual regional tournament held at Cookeville High School. Action is set to begin at 1 p.m.