OTTAWA – With all the bad weather throughout the past two weeks, not much high school tennis has been played.
But Ottawa and Morris certainly made up for it on opening day of the Interstate 8 Conference season.
With the sun shining brightly on the Henderson-Guenther Tennis Facility on Tuesday afternoon, the host Pirates earned a pair of scintillating, super-tiebreaker victories in No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles to come away with a 4-1 league win versus a solid group from Morris.
“At the start today, I wasn’t sure if we’d be able to win 3-2, and it really turned out great for us being able to find a way to win both No. 1 matches,” Ottawa coach Matt Gross said. “To start the conference season off like we did with a win was what we really wanted, and I was glad to see it.”
“To start the conference season off like we did with a win was what we really wanted, and I was glad to see it.”
— Ottawa boys tennis coach Matt Gross
Pirates No. 1 singles player senior Sebastian Cabrera (1-4) earned his first win of the season after he rallied back from a one-set deficit by surviving a pair of tiebreakers to defeat Morris freshman standout Connor Barth 4-6, 7-6 (6) and 10-6 in a super-tiebreaking set that went down to the wire.
“In the first tiebreaker that closed out the second game, I was just trying to hang in there, hold on to my mental toughness and find a way to rally, and [I] ended up winning 8-6 to send it into the super-tiebreaker,” Cabrera said. “From there, I just kept that same mentality, tried to wear him out, got ahead and closed with my first win of the year.
“I had a rough start to my season, but this definitely was uplifting for me.”
In No. 1 doubles, senior Adam Gross and sophomore brother Noah Gross regrouped after a disappointing second-set loss to defeat the Morris duo of senior Mason Kitchell and sophomore Connor Ahern 6-3, 3-6 and a dominating 10-0 sweep of the super-tiebreaker to win the match in style.
The Ottawa coach’s sons (2-3) shook off the mid-match doldrums with a final impressive surge. This is the first season the two siblings have paired in doubles.
“We like it. We’re really enjoying playing together, and today reinforced what we can do when we’re playing well,” Adam Gross said. “We started off a little shaky in the first set, but we still won, and then we kind of lost some focus with a big bump in the road in the second. Thankfully, we were able to clear things up with no doubt in the super-tiebreaker where everything felt right.”
Noah Gross concurred.
“I know [Adam] always has my back, and today solidified the special bond we have not only as brothers, but now as teammates competing on the varsity level together,” Noah Gross said. “Hopefully this is just a great start to what we hope will be an excellent year for both of us and our team.”
After the heroics of Ottawa’s No. 1s, the Pirates also received victories from No. 2 single sophomore Trevor Mortenson (2-3), who defeated Morris sophomore Tristan Olvera 6-0, 7-5, along with a No. 3 doubles win when juniors Alan Sifuentes and Rylan Salas beat Morris senior Brandon Temme and freshman Hunter Lindenborn 6-3, 6-0.
Morris’ lone win on the day came when senior Zachery Berman and sophomore Shane Phillips topped Ottawa seniors Landen Thorsen and Ethan Cela (2-3) at No. 2 doubles 6-4, 2-6, 10-5 during another super-tiebreaking contest.