By Josh Brown
TROY — The Troy tennis team hadn’t been home in so long, they had to spend some extra time on the courts.
But when it mattered, the Trojans were able to come up big.
After building an overall 2-0 lead and needing to win only one more spot Friday against visiting Alter, three matches — at second singles and first and second doubles — all went three sets, with two of those matches lasting more than two and a half hours. But Troy was able to win those two marathon matches at second singles and first doubles, closing out a 4-1 victory over the Knights to run its winning streak to eight games.
“This was a good match for us to win,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. “We needed to win a good, tough match.”
It was the Trojans’ (15-1) first home game in more than a week, since a 5-0 win against Fairborn on April 20 — a stretch of three straight road wins this week. It was also the first time the Trojans had played at home since clinching its first-ever share of the Greater Western Ohio Conference North Division title on Tuesday with a 5-0 victory at Sidney.
“It feels really cool,” sophomore Shane Essick said. “Butler’s always won it up to now, but Troy’s finally got it now. All we have left (to clinch the title outright) is Piqua.”
“It feels pretty great,” senior Matt Schmitt said. “I’m playing great right now, and it’s my senior year, so I’m trying to have as much fun and make it as memorable as possible.”
The Trojans defeated Butler 4-1 in Troy on April 19, the Aviators’ first loss in GWOC North play since the division was formed in 2007. Troy then ensured it would win its first North Division title with the win at Sidney and can win it outright with a victory Tuesday back on the road at Piqua.
“It makes us feel good,” Schmitt said, who saw Butler win the past three titles while playing on varsity. “We finally turned the tables on them. It’s something Luke Oaks, our first singles player from last year, worked really hard for. I think he’d be proud of us.”
“It felt a lot cooler,” said Essick, who played on last year’s varsity team. “Last year, they (Butler) stacked against us and won 3-2. This year, it was a good feeling beating them 4-1 with them not stacking the lineup. It was a big difference.
“We kind of knew in our guts that we had it, but once we beat them, it was a cool feeling.”
Essick and Schmitt took care of business quickly Friday against Alter. At first singles, Essick defeated Aiden Faessler 6-0, 6-1, and at third singles, Schmitt defeated Scott McHenry 6-2, 6-0 to put the Trojans up 2-0 early.
From there, though, nothing came easy.
All three other spots went to third sets. The second doubles team of Carter Hench and Anoop Patel came back after dropping the first set to force a third one against Nick Fadell and Greg Duchak, but in the end Alter won that one 6-0, 3-6, 6-1 to remain alive at 2-1 overall.
“Shane won pretty easy at No. 1, and Matt was in control the whole way at No. 3,” Goldner said. “Second doubles didn’t play very well, but they came back and won that second set. Anoop hasn’t played varsity since the first week of the season (Jack Johnston was out with an illness for the day), but at least they came back and sent the match to three sets.”
That left Troy still needing a win from either Elijah Sadler at second singles or the first doubles team of Nick Prus and Andrew Magoteaux. The Trojans won the first set in both matches but dropped narrow second sets to go the distance — and neither match would be decided until more than two and a half hours after they began.
At first doubles, Prus and Magoteaux won the first set 6-4, but Alter’s (7-5) Louie Pilati and Robby Ruffold won the second 7-5. With Troy holding a narrow 2-1 lead in the third, Prus served a series of more than 10 consecutive deuces before his team was able to finally put away the game and take control. From there, Prus and Magoteaux won the third set 6-2 to close out the team win.
“First doubles needed a tough win,” Goldner said. “That game with 10 deuces was probably the key to the whole match. Hopefully they matured in this match to understand what they need to do to be consistent to win.”
Sadler, meanwhile, won his first set 6-2 before Alter’s Adam White rallied in the second and took a 5-2 lead. Sadler fought all the way back to force a tiebreaker, but White was able to win that 7-6 (1) to force the third set.
After Sadler held a one-game lead throughout the early part of the third set, White got a break and took a 4-3 lead himself. But Sadler broke back, grabbed a 5-4 lead and was able to put the match away with a 6-3 win.
“Elijah was down 5-2 in that second set and forced a tiebreaker, then he lost that at one,” Goldner said. “You don’t know how the momentum is going to go after something like that. But he broke down 4-3 and won three straight games to win. He needed a grinder, too. It was good for him to win in a tough match.”
It’s simply the way the Trojans’ season has gone — and now they head into arguably its biggest week. Troy will host Tippecanoe on Senior Day Monday before traveling to Piqua to try to clinch the outright GWOC North title. Then on Thursday, the Trojans will travel to Centerville for the GWOC gold flight tournament.
“The kids have just been great all year,” Goldner said. “They get along, they cheer for each other. They have their ups and downs, but when someone is down, someone else picks them up. It’s exactly what a tennis team is supposed to be like. I couldn’t be more proud of them.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.