By Josh Brown
TROY — Troy’s senior-laden lineup has learned over the years what it takes to win a division title.
Thursday, the Trojans took the next-to-last step toward claiming their third straight.
The Troy tennis team swept Tippecanoe 5-0 Thursday in a matchup between the two Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division co-leaders entering the day’s play, with the Trojans claiming a one-game lead in the standings and clinching at least a share of the division title with their eighth straight victory while celebrating their Senior Day.
The veteran Trojans — who boast a lineup filled with five seniors, including all three singles spots as well as both members of the second doubles team — improved to 14-1 overall and 9-0 in the GWOC American North, with only winless Piqua remaining on the division schedule next week standing in the way of a third straight outright championship.
“We played well as a team today,” Troy coach Mark Goldner said. “The kids were geared up for it, and (Tippecanoe coach) Kaci (Finfrock) said her kids were geared up for it. Today, we met the challenge. Now we just need to get one more and it’ll be ours.”
The young Red Devils, meanwhile, fell to 8-5 overall and 7-1 in the GWOC American North, with matches against Greenville and Butler still to play.
“It was a big match, and the boys were definitely excited for it,” Finfrock said. “Troy just has this tennis lore about them. And it starts with their consistency of winning and the leadership of coach Goldner. Every single year, he puts a quality team on the court, and they’ve been dominant in the North. To be honest, it was a great feeling coming into today tied with them at the top of the division.”
At first singles, Shane Essick knocked off Colin Achterberg 6-2, 6-1 — though he did provide a scare late in the second set. Despite the big lead, he still went after a ball hard and slid to the ground harder, laying out on his back as the large crowd gasped — until he playfully yelled out “Well that hurt.” A teammate called out to check on him, and Essick said through a laugh “Yeah, I’m fine. But that’ll be sore tomorrow,” and finished off the final two games of the match.
“Shane’s played all four years and been to districts all three years so far,” Goldner said. “Yesterday was a big win for him against Butler, because Vandalia’s No. 1 is a real good player. Shane was down 3-2 but ended up winning four straight games and just rolled in the second set there. He’s had a great four years.”
At second singles, Elijah Sadler took on Hugo Mark and won 6-0, 6-1.
“Elijah, he makes you beat him,” Goldner said. “He’s been a battler all four years, and he’s gotten better every year. And man, he hates to lose.”
At third singles, Andrew Magoteaux defeated Christopher Nichols 6-1, 6-2.
“Andrew’s played all four years, too, and I think in the last week or so, he’s started to play his best tennis,” Goldner said. “He’s shown it the last couple matches — he’s really going after balls and moving around his opponents well. This is the time to get hot.”
At second doubles, Anoop Patel and John Wehrkamp defeated David Shininger and Jack Thompson 6-3, 6-0.
“Anoop and John, I couldn’t have put two people together that needed each other at second doubles,” Goldner said. “John is in his first year out and is really aggressive, and Anoop is steady and not as aggressive. Anoop has been able to laugh at John this year, which I think has helped him, and I think John’s aggressiveness has helped Anoop get more aggressive. They’ve worked out great together.”
And at first doubles, Nathan Kleptz and Jackson Goodall — Troy’s only non-senior players on the day — defeated Evan Hill and Levi Berning 6-0, 6-0.
“Two sophomores, Nathan and Jackson, and they’ve grown and started to understand how to play doubles,” Goldner said. “How to move and when they get easy ball to put them away — they’ve started to understand that more and more, and that’s going to pay benefits the rest of this year and even the next years.
“As a coach, my feeling is that we’ve all gotten better and fought through some adverse weather conditions. This is good. We’re in a good spot right now.”
And for the young Devils, the match gave them something to work towards and, Finfrock hopes, motivation moving forward.
“We had a great freshman class come up, and I think it elevated everyone one varsity’s play,” Finfrock said. “We’ve got a great third singles player in freshman Christopher Nichols, who shows a lot of promise, and we’ve got a second doubles player in Jack Thompson that came in and really surprised me with his ability on the backhand and his volleys.
“We are young — we have one senior in Evan Hill — but everyone else we’re going to be getting back. So really, it’s going to come down to how bad they want it and how bad this loss today hurt them, to then work in the offseason to try to come back and put ourselves in a great position to win the GWOC North next year. But again, hats off to Troy.”
Troy hosts GWOC National South Division leader Springboro Friday in a big non-league matchup, while Tippecanoe returns home to host Greenville Friday.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.