By Josh Brown
TROY — Milton-Union’s Nathan and Nick Brumbaugh showed why they were the No. 1 seed.
The Bulldog doubles team — who came in as the defending sectional doubles champion — rolled through its two matches at Saturday’s Division II sectional tennis finals at Troy Community Park, winning their second straight title and maintaining a No. 1 seed for next week’s district tournament.
“It feels great,” Nathan said. “Our hard work has really paid off. We’ve been going hard at it for the last couple weeks.”
The duo, who regularly played singles for the Bulldogs throughout the regular season, knew that joining forces would give them an edge in the sectional. After all, they did the same thing last year.
“Yeah, we knew we could do it,” Nick said.
“We both started playing our best singles at the end of the year, too,” Nathan said. “We both beat two kids that we had lost to at the beginning of the season (at the Southwestern Buckeye League tournament). We stepped it up this year.”
The Brumbaughs began the day by defeating Lehman’s Sam Ritze and Danny Lins, the No. 3 seed, 6-1, 6-1, while Catholic Central’s second-seeded team of Brougher and Kelly rallied after dropping the first set to Tippecanoe’s Colin Achterberg and Christopher Nichols for a 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 win.
In the final, the Brumbaughs routed Brougher and Kelly 6-2, 6-2 to claim their second straight sectional title.
“We’re prepared,” Nathan said. “We’re ready to go to state. That’s our goal this year.”
Last season, Nathan and Nick won their first-round match at the district tournament but fell in the quarterfinals, just missing out on a trip to state.
“They’ve been working hard,” Milton-Union coach Roger Davidson said. “They know what the next level is like. From sectional to district is a big change. They saw where they were at last year going from the first-round match to the next round. Seeing that change, it’s a big one. It’s a different level.
“I will say that practices are pretty easy for me to get together after the regular season. It’s nice for them having a couple of brothers that are college players and a pro dad. And they’re working hard.”
Achterberg and Nichols, the only unseeded doubles team remaining, then knocked off Lehman’s Ritze and Lins in three sets, winning 6-3, 6-7 (5), 6-4.
The duo — Tippecanoe’s first and third singles players during the regular season — wasn’t phased by dropping the tiebreaker and being taken to a third set by Lehman in the consolation match.
“Coming out in the third set, I was serving and Chris was at the net, and I feel like that’s where we’re strongest,” Achterberg said. “We got the right momentum to go forward after that and just rode it out to the end.”
“We just had to mentally regroup, reset and play our own game,” Nichols said.
“Dropping that first match of the day was kind of a learning experience,” Tippecanoe coach Kaci Finfrock said. “They’re still young, but I was really proud to see that they both stuck together and rallied back and were able to get the win in the next match.
“And hats off to Lehman. They’re well coached, and both kids were class acts. It was a great matchup for a third and fourth seed. It was a great match for us to learn on going forward into districts, and it highlighted some things we need to work on. So we’ll continue to work and get better and be ready for districts.”
The Red Devils will take a No. 3 seed into next week’s district tournament.
“I’m very excited,” Achterberg said. “It’s going to be a great experience, and just to play at the ATP is awesome. But we’re hoping that we don’t get a Cincinnati team right out.”
“That’s actually what I was thinking, too,” Nichols said with a laugh.
Achterberg and Nichols are also the first Tippecanoe district qualifiers since Michael and Joe Keller advanced in 2015.
“It feels really good,” Nichols said. “When coach told us it had been a while, that we were the first in a few years, it felt really good. It gave us a ton of confidence coming into today.”
And in singles, Lehman’s Griffin West, the No. 2 seed, ended up facing a pair of unseeded players on his way to the sectional title — a path that involved playing six sets of tennis. First, he defeated Northridge’s Josh Brown 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 to reach the title match, where he defeated Northeastern’s Jacob Calhoun 6-7 (3), 6-2, 6-1 to win the championship.
The district tournament begins at 9 a.m. Thursday at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.