With one final game to be played on the courts at Placerita Junior High on Tuesday, Hart’s Alex Sutton and Parker Green and Golden Valley’s Chris Guerra and Eric Kim were receiving advice from the coaches before beginning the tie-break.
“I told Chris to try and get to the net and Eric to just play nice and consistent at the baseline,” Grizzlies coach Josh Stimac said. “To not do anything that you wouldn’t normally do. Don’t try and do anything special, just try and stay in every point.”
Hart coach Allan Hardbarger had a similar message.
“I said don’t overthink, just watch the ball and move to the ball, put it away like we always do at practice,” Hardbarger said. “Don’t try to do anything special because I already know what they can do and they can do a lot.”
But in fact, Sutton and Green did do something special. They stepped up and played aggressively against Guerra and Kim, who seemed to always catch up to long balls and slam them back towards the opposition.
The Indians were the first to score, with Green banging a low hit over the net and out of the Grizzlies’ reaches. The pattern continued with Sutton consistently returning hits from the back and Parker pursuing short balls at the net.
As a whole, Hart won the match 13-5 as Sutton and Green were able to win the tie-break 7-1 and take the set 7-6.
“We were talking and we were thinking it was a lot more of our mistakes that were kind of haunting us,” Sutton said. “So we were thinking, don’t play nervous, play aggressive, play fast and that’s how we usually play in practice, so we can perform at that level playing aggressive so we just figured take a chance when it was really close.”
Sutton won all of his doubles sets on the day, but only won one with Green. For the rest, he was partnered with Tanner Spendlove, who usually plays singles. But with three matches this week, one of which is against Valencia, Hardbarger decided to give Spendlove a break.
With a little effort, Green fit perfectly with his senior counterpart.
“In the very beginning of the set, they definitely had a few moments where they were unsure of what to do,” Hardbarger said. “And I think that just comes from having the first league match of the season and they’re just trying to figure out what they need to do order to succeed. They’re both seniors, though, and they figured it out and they really didn’t need me that much.”
The Indians won every doubles set on the afternoon. Spencer Kline and Sam Fossa won 6-1, 6-2, 6-1 and Jeremy Killian and Jack Burns won 6-3, 6-0, 6-1.
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For Golden Valley, Dylan Yu had an excellent outing despite playing while feeling under the weather. He dropped his first match against Luke Papayoanou 6-2, but bounced back to win the second two against Jax Liescheidt and Justyn Friedler 6-3 and 6-0, respectively.
“His footwork was a little bit sloppy, a little bit slow, a little bit sluggish, but he’s a good player,” said Stimac. “He’s got great hands. He’s got good court sense so he was able to get in all the sets except for the first one where he just got outplayed. He’s a good fighter, he’s a good team leader, just a good kid.”
After beating Yu, Papayoanou went on to win the following set 6-3 and lost his final set of the day 6-0.
While Golden Valley is set to take on West Ranch on Thursday, the Indians are using the win as a boost of confidence as they prepare for Valencia on the same day. But Hart has a bigger goal than just beating the Vikings: winning a Foothill League title.
“We want to feel proud of ourselves and to have our name in the school gym,” Sutton said. “That we did it. It’s almost like, it’s there forever.
“So every tennis player that walks onto the court will see the banner, our names and every person in the gym will see that the 2019 tennis team won. I think that’s really important to all of us.”
Note: All Hart home matches will take place at College of the Canyons from this point forward due to court remodeling at Hart High School.