The Sturgis boys tennis team considers Monday’s accomplishment as the appetizer. Still, for a program once known for ruling the courts, its first Southwestern Michigan Athletic Conference East Division championship since 2004 tasted divine.
“We anticipated this because we knew that Lakeview was going to be down and we were on top of Coldwater based on last year,” he said. “They were still tough this year. The other teams … we knew we were on top, too. We knew there was a very distinct possibility, so that has kind of been our immediate goal, which was accomplished tonight. It feels good. It’s a division title.”
Eric Bartley at No. 1 singles didn’t mail in his match against Tanner Wilcox, even after Sturgis had closed out the first six. He battled to a 6-3, 6-3 victory, and joined his teammates to watch No. 2 singles Nick Rehm overcome a 4-6 loss in the first set and take the next two against Taylor Antes 6-3, 6-0 to complete the team shutout.
Avery Peterson (No. 3) earned a 6-1, 6-2 victory and Seth Miller checked off a win at No. 4 singles, 6-1, 6-2. The first doubles tandem of Chad VanDosen and Kris Ransberger cruised 6-0, 6-0, the No. 2 team of Nate Sisson and Andrew Airgood claimed a 6-1, 6-0 victory, Ben Sisson and Nick Foley finished 6-1, 6-1 at third doubles and Caleb Northrop and Matt Polzin added a 6-1, 6-0 win at No. 4.
It was critical that no member of the team take his foot off the gas, Earl said.
“It’s very important because [Harper Creek is] in our region,” he explained. “I start the season off by telling the guys, and this is true in other sports, is you can’t let up because of your regional seedings. All of these matches are for regional seedings.
“That’s why it’s important to get as many 8-0, 7-1, 6-2 wins as we can. We rev up; we crescendo toward the regional and the state. Conference is a lot of fun. Regionals is more important because it gets you to state.”
Earl said it has been a collective effort this season after losing several talented players from 2012.
“Seth Miller is kind of the go-to man,” he said. “You pretty much expect wins from him. Nick [Rehm] is very steady, too. He was almost the [No.] 1. He is very steady. He’s working off an injury right now — a hip flexor — and this is the first time he’s played since Wednesday.
“Eric [Bartley] just now beat a very good player. I’m very proud of him. The toughest spot is No. 1 singles and he played a very good match right there to clinch that.”