Portland took a giant step toward claiming the 2012 CAAC White boys tennis title with a 6-2 win over defending champion Lansing Catholic in the last league dual match of the season on Monday.
With the win, the Raiders finish the league dual season undefeated, and would clinch the title outright if they win league tournament on Thursday.
In their dual matches this season against the other traditional league powers, the Cougars and Williamston, Portland has prevailed by a combined score of 13-3.
“It puts us in the driver’s seat for the league tournament,” Portland coach Jim Niebling said. “It’s always a battle between Portland and Lansing Catholic, so every time we play, it’s big.”
The match was played in conditions that were less than ideal. The strong winds caused visible problems with serving and virtually taking the lob out of the match altogether.
“It probably affected them more than it did us,” Niebling said. “A big part of their game is lobbing, and the wind will affect a slower-moving ball, so I suppose it probably hurt them more than it did us.”
Three of the matches went to three sets, including the marquee matchup at first singles between defending Division 4 state champion Chance Conley of Portland and Matt Heeder, a state semifinalist in second singles last year.
Conley prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 6-1, in a match that started out with both players struggling to hold their serve.
Of the first 15 games of the match, 12 of them were lost by the player serving, including an astounding 11 service breaks in a row.
“We weren’t focused at all, I don’t think,” Conley said. “Matt’s a fine player, but I think we were both going through the motions. We both have decent serves, so there’s no reason why we should be getting broken.”
One bright spot for the Cougars was the play of their second doubles team of Shafi Afandiyev and Chris Castellani. The pair rallied after losing the first set to win their match 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 over the Raiders’ Mason Haggard and Bryce Palmiter to remain undefeated at 12-0 for the season.
The other three-set match was in first doubles, where Portland’s Cameron Simon and Colin Gensterblum defeated Steven Knape and Emmet Lehman of Lansing Catholic by a score of 6-4, 3-6, 6-1.
“In the split-set matches, I think they played the third sets tougher than we did,” Lansing Catholic coach Ron Landfair said.
“Their coach had them ready to play, and their effort showed that. Coach Niebling gave us our worst loss to them in 12 years.”