It was nearly a perfect split.
Oshkosh West’s strong doubles lineup posted comfortable wins in sweeping the three matches, while the talented singles players for Oshkosh North collected three straight-set victories.
Only Zeeshan Sabih didn’t follow suit and the Wildcats were able to hold off the rival Spartans because of it.
Sabih outlasted North freshman Cade Francour, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3 at No. 3 singles in what proved to be the crucial win for the Wildcats in a 4-3 victory in a Fox Valley Association dual meet at the YMCA Tennis Center on Thursday.
“We play them every year and it’s always tough, so it’s nice to get that victory,” Sabih said. “I knew it was going to be tough, but I was able to pull it out.”
After losing the second set to Francour, Sabih trailed 1-2 in the third set before winning back-to-back games to regain the lead.
He then won three of the next four games to finish off the victory.
“When I was down 1-2, I got two games in a row and that was a key to getting me up,” Sabih said. “I just had to keep my mind right, I had to play tough. I had to keep myself energized.”
The rest of the singles matches belonged to North as Brandon Hamm beat J.T. Casper at the No. 1 flight, 7-6, 6-2; Aron Kumbalek won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles over Alex Boettcher; and Vince Clune posted a 6-1, 6-4 win over Danny Colantonio at No. 4 singles.
“Our singles lineup is definitely the stronger part of our team, so we were looking at trying to sweep singles,” North coach Paul Vanden Boogard said. “We lost a close one in three sets that could have went either way so I’m happy with how it went. Unfortunately we lost, but it was close.”
Hamm, a returning state qualifier, almost found himself needing three sets to win his match, as he trailed 5-2 in the first set before rallying.
Casper also led in the tiebreaker, but Hamm was able to pull out the win, capping the first set with a nifty backhand volley for the final point.
“I wasn’t hitting the way I wanted to in that first set and got down early,” Hamm said. “(Casper) was playing really well. He was finishing shots.
“What I really tried to do was get balls back and not beat myself and it paid off and I got back in the match.”
Although it was a loss for Casper, West coach Debbie Heinen was impressed with the senior’s performance in the match.
“Obvisouly Hamm was a state qualifier last year and that’s the level J.T. is wanting to be at and he proved he could hang right with that level of play,” Heinen said. “Overall, he was just playing smart. He would use the power but then he would also mix up the pace and just try to keep Brandon on his toes.”
As solid as North looked in singles, West was equally impressive in doubles.
The Wildcats’ three tandems lost more than two games in just one set on Thursday, led by Michael Buege and Justin Xie’s 6-2, 6-2 win over Cal Olson and Ben Laufer at the No. 1 flight.
“We kept up the pace and playing fast,” Buege said. “When we were losing games, we slowed down, which wasn’t a good thing.”
Xie said that there is a little something special in beating North, just because of the familiarity with the team on the other side of the net.
“We’re always facing these guys we’re always seeing how they are improving so we kind of know their game,” Xie said. “And it’s interesting to see in an actual match how our skills match up when we know pretty much what each other’s weaknesses are.”
Chris Lightner and Ben Rogers pounded out a 6-1, 6-2 win over Cam Buelow and Luke Rothenbach at No. 2 doubles, while West’s No. 3 pairing of Adam Hawley and Casey Nelson downed North’s Abishek Chopra and Dan Payne, 6-4, 6-1.
“Our doubles teams, we’re starting to get some more chemistry together,” Heinen said. “I think that’s important. They came out looking good today, playing solid, getting into the net, putting the ball away and really controlling the points.”
Singles: No. 1 — Brandon Hamm (ON) def. J.T. Casper, 7-6, 6-2. No. 2 — Aron Kumbalek (ON) def. Alex Boettcher, 6-3, 6-3. No. 3 — Zeeshan Sabih (OW) def. Cade Francour, 7-5, 3-6, 6-3. No. 4 — Vince Clune (ON) def. Danny Colantonio, 6-1, 6-4.
Doubles: No. 1 — Michael Buege/Justin Xie (OW) def. Cal Olson/Ben Laufer, 6-2, 6-2. No. 2 — Chris Lightner/Ben Rogers (OW) def. Cam Buelow/Luke Rothenbach, 6-1, 6-2. No. 3 — Adam Hawley (OW) def. Abishek Chopra/Dan Payne, 6-4, 6-1.