If the first meeting between West Lafayette freshman Ryan Hollis and Harrison freshman Cole Bradley is any indication, Tippecanoe County tennis fans are in for a treat the next four years.
Bradley walked through the gate at Harrison’s No. 1 singles court on Thursday with the look of a marathon runner who just completed a race under the scorching sun. And he was the winner.
“I knew it was going to be a dogfight,” said Bradley, who was swarmed by teammates after exiting the court.
Though Bradley fought through to deliver three straight winners to conclude a 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (4) victory, it was West Lafayette that finished with the upper hand in the second match of the season for both teams.
Senior Alan Min’s 6-4, 6-3 win over Isaac Mathis at No. 2 singles, freshman Arjun Ramani’s 6-1, 6-2 win over Mark Sellke at No. 3 singles and Tommy Krause and Mika Reuhs’ 7-5, 6-3 win over David Beardmore and Liam Trumble at No. 1 doubles gave the Red Devils bragging rights.
West Side also hopes it provides some early-season confidence in case of a sectional rematch next month. Harrison and West Lafayette have combined to win the last 16 sectional championships. WL has won 14 of those, with Harrison interrupting the streak with titles in 2007 and 2010.
West Lafayette defeated Harrison 3-2 in the sectional championship last season.
“We’re longtime rivals and we kind of have a top-heavy schedule, so it is important that we get off to a good start,” Min said. “We have to practice for sectionals, and we always play them in sectionals. It’s always a really tough match when we do that.”
Harrison gained a No. 2 doubles victory from sophomores Ben Pijanowski and Patrick Sullivan over Jethro Zhou and George Chien.
With the match decided, all eyes were on Bradley and Hollis. Their only previous meeting was a one-set battle at Purdue’s Schwartz Tennis Center, resulting in a 6-4 win for Hollis.
After dropping the first set, Bradley forced a third, then quickly jumped ahead 5-2 in the final set.
Hollis battled back to take a 6-5 lead before Bradley broke serve and forced a tiebreaker.
With the tiebreaker even at four, Bradley smashed a two forehands and an overhead all down the line for the final three points to secure the first of possibly eight head-to-head meetings they could have during their high school careers.
“That last shot in the tiebreaker at 6-4, I knew it was going to go in with the adrenaline,” Bradley said. “I am looking forward to (future rematches). It’ll be fun.”