WAYNESVILLE – The Tigers were ahead 3-0 in the team's initial singles tennis matches, but Rolla's Nethaniel Graham and Sven Olberg pushed two of Waynesville's top competitors to the limit in the night's final singles matches.
"I told my kids coming in we could win 5-0, we could lose 5-0, or it could be a 5-4 match," Rolla coach Cody Kennedy said of his wily Bulldogs.
After previously defeating Rolla 6-2-1, April 3, Waynesville coach Paula Davis reciprocated equal sentiments to her squad before Tuesday's matchup.
"You've got to be ready to play," Davis told her wily Tigers. "Through the season everybody's gotten better."
How much better?
In the tightest match of the evening, Waynesville freshman Robert Osborn dropped his first set to Graham, 4-6 before rallying to take set two, 6-4. Both players traded shots in a tiebreaker before Osborn eventually outlasted Graham, 6-4 to take the heated match.
Another nail-biting set came between Waynesville's Devonte Baity and Olberg. After dominating the first set 6-1, Baity fell victim to multiple double-faults before dropping the next set, 4-6.
"The first time they played, it was a 13-11 tiebreaker," Kennedy said. "What more could you ask for?"
Covered in sweat, the student-athletes battled back and forth in a tiebreaker that took all seven points to win. Baity failed to return Olberg's final serve, giving Rolla a 5-7 match victory.
The evening's other singles matches were finished quickly as Bryce Sadler (Way) defeated Aidan Gelles, 6-3, 7-5; Lucas Cressler (Way) defeated Michael Janke 6-3, 6-1; Tyler Warren (Way) defeated Jarod Reith, 6-1, 6-4; and Parker Nesbitt (RHS) defeated Hunter Sadler 6-0. 6-2.
Ahead 4-2 overall, the match came down to a six-team set of doubles matches.
"I was afraid that's what was going to happen," Davis said after the singles matches.
Down 4-2, Kennedy, however, was cautiously optimistic working closer to the finish line.
"I was hoping for a singles 3-3 split because I realized taking three courts on doubles was going to be pretty tough," Kennedy explained.
The Tigers' top two doubles teams struggled against Rolla, leaving room for the young tandem of H. Sadler and Osborn to rise to the occasion.
After Nesbitt and Janke crushed Waynesville's No. 2 team of Baity and Warren, 6-2, 6-1, that left a window of opportunity for Rolla to edge closer with an overall team score of 4-3.
But, before the No. 1 singles match concluded, H. Sadler and Osborn defeated Gelles and Reith, 7-5, 6-2 to advance Waynesville to the district finals round with an overall team score of 5-3.
"It held up to a pretty good [team] match," Kennedy said. "The fact that everybody came out and played well, regardless if you win or lose, you want it to be a good match."
Page 2 of 2 - Waynesville (8-3) travelled to Springfield, Mo. on Wednesday to take on top-seeded Glendale for the Class 2, District 10 title.
(*Updated: Waynesville lost to Glendale 5-0.)
The individual district tournament is set to begin next week.