Coming into the 2018 season, the Wilson Central Tennis Program had several items on their to-do list. Increasing the strength of schedule was at the top of that list.
The hope was that tougher competition and learning how to fight in difficult situations would spearhead improvement for the program.
Wilson Central faced another strong opponent in Franklin, as the Rebels handed both the boys and girls losses on Thursday afternoon.
Despite the results, Wilson Central coach Ryan Jent saw much improvement from his squad.
“If we had played this team last season, or early this season, I’m not sure how well we would have competed,” Jent said.
“They (Franklin) are exceptional. Their girls team is one of the top 10 teams in Division I-Large, and their boys are awfully strong and battled tested, but we played a very, very good match.”
The Wildcats dropped a 5-2 decision as junior Michael Mercante and Andrew Denning were able to pull out the lone Wilson Central wins.
At number one singles, Mercante raced out to build a 6-1 lead over Zach Cloyes. Cloyes managed to scratch his way back to 6-5 before Mercante closed out the match with a strong final two games. Resulting in an 8-6 win.
Denning found himself in a similar situation against Jordan Timmerberg as Denning claimed an early 5-2 lead.
However, Timmerberg managed to fight back within one game at 7-6, before Denning took the match.
“Michael was a state semifinalist last year, but I feel he’s playing much better now than he was at this time last season,” Jent said.
“Andrew may be one of the most, if not most, improved kid in our district, and he’s learning how to close out tough matches.”
Denning and Mercante, however, did struggle in the doubles as Cloyes and Timmerberg came back from an early 1-4 deficit to take an 8-6 win at one doubles.
Franklin got its first points of the match with an 8-0 win at two doubles as Read Cox and Josh Whitehead downed senior Braden Hammer and freshman AJ Hughes.
Wilson Central freshman Caleb Brown dropped an 8-0 decision to Ben Muller at number five singles, while fellow freshman Hughes was dispatched by Cox 8-1 at number four singles.
Hammer lost to Whitehead 8-1 at number three singles.
The Lady Wildcats held leads in two of the three doubles matches, but could not convert as Franklin battled back to pick up wins in each match.
The Lady Rebels took the momentum from their doubles success to ease past Wilson Central 9-0.
Franklin picked up the opening point with an 8-0 win at number three doubles by Ella Bare and Evy Bester over Wilson Central juniors Makayla Posey and Kaylee Wilson.
Wilson Central junior Sydney Miller and freshman Ashlynn Staggs took an early 3-0 advantage at two doubles, and held a 5-3 lead midway through the set.
However, the team of Lexis Knetsavanh and Greer Voyles ripped off the final five games for an 8-5 win.
At number one doubles, Wilson Central juniors Jacey Staggs and Savannah Westbrook held an early 3-2 advantage with two points that would have given the Lady Wildcats a 4-2 lead.
However, Franklin’s Natasha Messier and Meera Unni were able to win the final two points and capture momentum from Staggs and Westbrook before winning five of the last six games en route to an 8-3 win.
“In terms of positioning and knowing what we want to do and how we want to play doubles, our girls get it,” Jent said.
“We just have to know that against really good teams we can’t take moments off, and against good teams if you take moments off, you’ll get exposed. Against most of the teams we’ve played this year, what we did today would have been fine. Not today, however.”
Jacey Staggs opened at one singles with a good performance, but it was not enough against the strong play of Unni as the Lady Rebel grabbed an 8-2 win.
Westbrook also played well, but fell to Messier 1-8 at two singles. Also with a 1-8 result, Miller lost to Knetsavanh at three singles.
Wilson Central junior Abby Moser fought hard against Bare, but was dispatched 3-8 at number four singles.
Ashlynn Staggs fell 3-8 at number five singles to Evelyn Knouse, and sophomore Kiersten Moss was downed at the number six singles position by a 3-8 count to Baxter Neal.