The monkey is finally off the backs of the Indian River varsity tennis team. The Indian had lost four matches by the score of 3-2 this season, but no more. Turning the tables, Indian River (2-5) defeated Smyrna 3-2 in a rematch of their season-opening loss to the Bulldogs.
The match was a first not only in achieving close wins but in new rankings for a few players.
Junior Fletcher Garrison (6-2) moved up from second-ranked singles to first-ranked singles, on the basis of impressive play thus far this season. Garrison’s sole loss was to juggernaut No. 2 Caesar Rodney upon moving to the new position on the team.
Garrison lost to Smyrna’s Tyler Parsons 6-3, 2-6, 3-6 in his first match at No 1.
“The kid Fletcher played was the best he had seen all year. But then that’s the way it is supposed to be at No. 1,” said Head Coach Sean Oates.
Garrison won the first set by accounting for the hard southerly wind and keeping his opponent off balance with a series of lob shots and constant volleys.
“The lobs were working well with the wind, but in the second set he perfected his overhand and was able to win,” said Garrison.
Garrison’s third set embodied the determination the Indians have displayed week in and week out.
Recently demoted second-singles player senior Bobby Boyce overwhelmed his opponent, Steven Pedeque, with decisive net-play in consecutive sets, 6-3 and 6-2, for his second victory of the season.
“Bobby’s win gives him some confidence. Sometimes players get complacent and knocking them down a peg can jumpstart their competitiveness,” Oates said. “Fletcher will probably remain in the first spot through the next couple of matches, weather permitting, and then on Friday (April 29) we’ll have a challenge match to see who wants the top spot.”
Sophomore exhibition player Josh Hudson got his feet wet as Indian River’s third-ranked singles player in the match versus Smyrna. Hudson lost in consecutive sets to Smyrna’s Colin Eldred, 1-6, 1-6.
Hudson’s match was a tough up-hill climb. Eldred was the only member of his team to gain a win versus No. 6 Dover.
Exhibition players Ed Smith and Charlie Cole gave Smyrna’s Jon Hall and Ernie Anderson a run in two sets but lost both, 6-2 and 6-3.
Second-ranked doubles duo of juniors Zack Mitchell and Chad Brasure continue to roll as they notch another win. The pair had been moved up to first-ranked doubles this week, on the heels of teammates Sean McMullen and Tommy Reichart’s missed play due to an academic function.
After dropping the first set 6-7, Mitchell and Brasure maintained their focus to steal the next two sets and collect their sixth win (6-1).
“They had a lot of unforced errors and they basically gave us the second set,” explained Mitchell.
Mitchell and Brasure (along with Garrison) only need one more win to get seeded in the Henlopen Conference tournament.
“Once they get their win, I can move them up a bit to try to win some of these matches going down the stretch,” said Oates.
Looking down the barrel — the Indians have to play Cape Henlopen (April 27), Sussex Central (April 28), Seaford (May 3) and Lake Forest (May 5).
“We’re looking to win these matches,” said Oates.
The Indians may be in a position to do so. Their determination and hard work has paid off, and the improvement is noticeable.
Indian River beat a good Smyrna (4-4) team on April 26. Two of Smyrna’s losses were to top-ranked Dover and St. Andrews.
“Our team has definitely improved since the first time we played Indian River. We’ve lost to some tough teams but that will only make us better,” said Smyrna Head Coach Keith Parsons.
With the wind now at their back after defeating an up-and-coming conference rival, Indian River now aims to make a late-season push toward the Southern Henlopen Conference title.
“Everybody played well and we finally won one of these close matches. Even the guys who lost can say they played good games,” said Oates.