FOUNTAIN CITY, Ind.
After winning their first of back-to-back sectionals at Richmond two years ago, Northeastern’s boys tennis team was sent to the Jay County sectional in 2011.
Just before the start of this season, the Knights found out they would return to Richmond.
On Wednesday, the teams got an early chance to gauge what they can expect once the postseason tournament rolls around in the season-opener for both teams. This time, the Knights blanked the Red Devils 5-0.
“It’s such an early match for Richmond, I don’t know much about how their kids prepared in the summer, so for us, it was just about continuing on the good play from the summer that the kids have played, but it at least gives us a look at what we’re looking at,” Northeastern coach Mike Esposito said. “We’re going to have to put this out of our minds once sectional time rolls around — I don’t bank on it being this easy come sectional time.”
But the Knights made it look easy on Wednesday.
Sophomore Grant Esposito played his first game at No. 1 singles after spending his freshman year in the No. 2 slot and was the first off the courts with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Red Devil Matt Paddock.
“Different experience, more nerves, but it was fun though,” Grant Esposito said of playing No. 1. “Just nice to get a win to start the season and hopefully build from that and continue through the season.”
Senior Jeremy Lacey was the second to finish with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Henry Dickman at No. 3 singles and the No. 2 doubles team of Shane Stiner and Craig Dingwerth clinched the victory with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Max Van Buskirk and Nathan Jones.
“We did great, five oh’d Richmond, and it feels great to start out with a 5-0 win,” said Lacey, one of two Knight seniors along with No. 1 doubles player Ryan Hester.
Jacob Rankin won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles and Hester and Charlie Webster won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
“They came in ready, they’re going to be a tough team to beat this year,” Rankin said of the Red Devils. “…They’re a good team and Richmond always fights very hard.”
The Knights improved to 1-0, while the Red Devils fell to 0-1. That may not be a bad thing, Richmond head coach Randy Hollingsworth said.
“The scores were very lopsided, but I thought we played pretty well, they’re just a much better team than we were at this point, and we knew that going in that this may be our toughest match of the year,” Hollingsworth said. “It’s always a tough match to start with for us, but it does give you something to shoot for as far as the sectional and looking to improve and kind of seeing where your weaknesses are and by the time sectional comes around, we can make it a little bit more competitive.”
The Red Devils play host to Hagerstown today, while the Knights travel to play a couple of district-ranked teams in Whiteland and Franklin this weekend.