Oliver Pender clinched Thursday’s dual match for the Monroe Catholic High School tennis team at the Dan Ramras Community Tennis Courts with a 6-4, 3-6, 7-4 win over West Valley’s Conner McDaniel to lead the Rams to a 4-3 win over the Wolfpack.
The teams were tied after the first group of matches, which included No. 2 boys, boys doubles, girls doubles and mixed doubles. Monroe split the girls singles division with a win at No. 1 but a loss in the No. 2 spot, leaving Pender and McDaniel alone on the courts to decide the match.
“Our team really showed up and put a lot of effort on the court, which is just good to see,” Monroe co-head coach Caitlin Deutsch said as the final matches were coming to a close. “West Valley obviously has more dynamics in their team. They have 26 and we have eight, so we have to work with what we have.”
In addition to the Rams win in the boys No. 1 spot, Pender’s mixed doubles partner Erin Hendricks won her girls No. 1 competition 6-2, 6-2 over Maddie Wills. But despite their individual success, Deutsch plans to focus on developing the two as a team.
“Erin stands out strongly in singles but we plan to develop her as a doubles player this year and same with Oliver,” Deutsch said. “They’re just stronger together and they work really well together on the court.”
Trevor Christian and Bryan Coty’s 6-4, 6-5 win over Sengiku Werdin-Kenn and Malachi Matheson in boys doubles and Oscar Oravec’s 6-0, 4-6, 7-3 victory against David Stark in the boys No. 2 spot gave the Rams their other two points.
West Valley head coach Sean Sullivan used Thursday’s match against a less-stacked opponent as an opportunity to get his less-experienced players on the court, which helped make for competitive matches despite the variation in depth between the two teams.
“I’m really happy all across the board from my mixed doubles, which was my number one to, June (Walhace) who hasn’t played an official match yet and she’s doing great,” Sullivan said pointing to the No. 2 girls match taking place on Court 3. “It was just a good spread all over.”
Morgan Ely and Aiden Payan played in the mixed doubles category for the Wolfpack and the duo took a 6-3, 6-5 win over Pender and Hendricks. Walhace won her match against Jean Cook 6-4, 6-4.
Astrid Anderson and Samantha Stark earned West Valley its third point with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Cook and Emma Bradshaw in the girls doubles match.
Deutsch splits the head coach duties with Hailey Messick for both Monroe and Hutchison — who, due to small roster sizes, run joint practices. Both coaches are in their first year coaching. This is Sullivan’s first year coaching, as well.
“I know that we both feel really fortunate to give back to the community and a sport that we’ve played our whole lives,” said Messick, a West Valley alumna. “Both Hailey and I grew up playing on these courts and it’s really great to come back after college and be able to mentor kids through an early pivotal point in their lives.”
Sullivan, who is a Lathrop alumnus also grew up playing on the DRCTC.
“Hailey, back in the day when I was, like, 13, used to beat me and I’d throw fits on the court,” Sullivan remembered, laughing.
Like Deutsch, the West Valley coach wanted to give back to the community and the sport he loved.
“I loved tennis but then I went and played college tennis and I kind of got a bad taste in my mouth for it because a lot of the attitudes around tennis really upset me, especially at the collegiate level,” Sullivan said.
“I’ve always wanted to coach and kind of wean that out of the tennis mentality because that just kind of pervades the sport especially at the super competitive level.”
Both teams return to the DRCTC on Monday to resume official play with Sullivan’s team taking on undefeated Lathrop at 3 p.m. and Monroe playing North Pole at 5 p.m.
Lathrop swept Hutchison on Thursday at the DRCTC with the Malemutes winning every division in two sets.
In boys singles Luke Millam took a 6-0, 6-1 win over Isaiah Moore in the No. 1 spot and Jaban Nautiyal took a 6-2, 6-2 win over Eli Kirsch in the No. 2 spot.
Helen Wharton won the No. 1 girls point in her 6-0, 6-0 match against Ana Brosnan and Ashley Plys took the No. 2 girls point with a 6-3, 6-4 win against Karilyn Blanchard.
Tifani Hollcraft and Plys shutout Ashley Bennett and Jennifer Langley with a 6-0, 6-0 win in girls doubles. Gage Hale and Owen Averett won their boys doubles match against Cooper Irinaga and Kirsch 6-0, 6-4.
Helen Wharton and Fletcher Burnett won the mixed doubles point with 6-2, 6-2 win against Sophia Squires and Isaiah Moore.
The Hawks next take on West Valley at 5 p.m. Tuesday at the DRCTC.
Contact News-Miner sports writer Laura Stickells at 459-7530. Follow her on Twitter: @FDNMsports.