BY CHUCK VANDENBERG
FORT MADISON – With winds blowing close to 30 mph, the Fort Madison Bloodhounds kept their composure and outlasted Keokuk 6-3 in boys tennis action Monday in Fort Madison.
Head Coach Dean Hogan, who is playing with only two players who saw any real time playing last year, said he considered his team an underdog going into the match.
“We’re a very young team and I considered us to be the underdogs tonight. We just don’t have a lot of match toughness under our belt from last year, but the kids are doing very well.”
At No. 1 singles the Bloodhounds Dante Seaney got behind early with Keokuk Reid Rieder in the first set being down as much as 1-4, but never got down and kept running down ball after ball. After Rieder took the first set it was becoming clear after several 10 to 15 shot rallies, that Seaney wasn’t going away.
He fought back to take the second set by running down shot after shot and frustrating Rieder out of his game. Seaney took the 2nd set 6-3 and then took the tiebreak 10-8. High school boys tennis is the best of two sets with a tie break to 10 with a win by two.
“Dante’s very quick and keeps the ball flat,” Hogan said. “He’s a person who definitely knows how to keep the ball in play with flat strokes. He doesn’t have natural strokes, but he’s improving that as the season goes along. He just keeps the mindset of keeping the ball in play.”
At No. 2 singles Johnny Hernandez was also down in the first set but fought his way back to force a tie breaker at 6-6 and won the tiebreak 7-5 over Keokuk’s Dillon Hoeing. But Hoeing came back and took the second set 4-6 forcing a tie break. Hogan said a marathon ensued and Hernandez held out for a 14-12 tiebreak win.
“Johnny’s serving is really improving.”
Fort Madison got their third win when Sam Avery dropped Keokuk’s Gavin Haner 7-6 (7-5 tiebreak) and 6-0 in the second set.
“He’s a great individual and a young player who is getting a handle on his technique with the groundstrokes, forehand and backhand,” Hogan said.
The Hounds ran into a buzz saw of sorts in the last three singles matches with Austin Krueger falling to Peyton Skinner at No. 4 in another long match. Austin took the first set 7-6 (7-2 tiebreak) but dropped the second set 2-6 and then lost in the tiebreaker 10-7.
At No. 5 singles Conrad Hellman fell in a tiebreaker to Keokuk’s Gage Stice 6-7 (7-5), 7-5 and then lost the tiebreaker 6-10. Tim Shin fell at No. 6 singles 2-6, 1-6 to tie the match at three apiece going into the doubles matches.
The Hounds paired up and sent Keokuk home sweeping the doubles action.
Seaney and Hernandez downed Hoeing and Haner 6-1 in the first set and then needed a 7-5 tiebreaker to take a 7-6 win to sweep the No. 1 doubles match.
Avery and Krueger dropped Reider and Skinner in straight sets 6-4, 6-3 to take the second match and seal the win for the Hounds.
But Hellman and Shin put some icing on the day when they bested their opponents 6-4, 6-4.
“We did a nice job in doubles tonight,” Hogan said. “We were playing well at the net and using tactics there and keeping the ball in play.
In junior varsity action, Blake Feuerhammer lost 5-7, 3-6 to Keokuk’s Cole Price, while Collin Meierotto dropped Keokuk’s Dillon Campbell 6-0, 6-1. In doubles action, Feuerhammer and Meierotto lost 6-2 to Price and Campbell.
The 2-0 Hounds travel to Muscatine on Tuesday.