By Josh Brown
TROY — Since she took over as coach of the Tippecanoe tennis teams, Kaci Matthews hasn’t had much luck against Troy teams.
Tuesday, her Red Devils changed that.
Tippecanoe spoiled the Trojans’ Senior Night festivities Tuesday night, sweeping Troy 5-0 to snap a two-game losing streak — and, more importantly for the Devils, stay within striking distance of Greater Western Ohio Conference American North Division leader Butler.
With the win, the Devils improved to 13-3 overall and 7-1 in the GWOC American North, trailing 8-0 Butler by one with two matches to go, while Troy fell to 11-4 and 6-2 in division play.
“In my coaching career, (Troy coach) Mark (Goldner’s) teams have been a solid pole right in the middle of the season,” Matthews said. “In both girls and boys, I’ve never been able to beat Mark. And to go out today and see the girls play the way they did, it means a lot to me as a coach, and it’s a good indicator of where our program is going.
“I was really excited to see the girls go out there and play the match they needed to. A lot of times we were down in some sets, but they were able to pull through and get a win tonight.”
“They have a good, solid team,” Goldner said of Tippecanoe. “Some things happened for them last week against Greenville (Tippecanoe’s only division loss). Tipp, Greenville and Vandalia are all awful close. On any given day, whoever is having a good day is going to win. Butler’s still got to play Tipp yet, and that’s going to be a decent match.”
Last week, Greenville beat Tippecanoe 4-1 and Butler defeated Troy 4-1, the first division loss for both teams. After hosting Northmont Wednesday, the Devils play at Butler on Thursday with a chance to pull even atop the standings.
“This speaks volumes about these girls,” Matthews said. “We faced a lot of adversity going into the Greenville match, and the way they were able to stay humble about it, stay hungry and want to come out here and compete and rise to the challenge … we had to win tonight to stay in the running, and they didn’t just do that. They attacked that challenge. One of our team goals is to win the GWOC North, and they kept that alive today.”
For Troy, which defeated Tippecanoe 3-2 last season and edged out the Devils by one game in the standings for third in the GWOC American North, it was a difficult day as the Trojans honored their two seniors, Katie Sherrick and Hailey Taylor.
Sherrick battled Tippecanoe’s Amelia Zweizig at first singles, but Zweizig always did what she had to do to maintain the advantage and put away a 6-3, 6-4 victory. In the second set, Zweizig turned a 3-2 lead into a 5-2 one, only to have Sherrick — who won the head-to-head matchup last season — battle back to within 5-4. Zweizig was able to hold her off in the end, though, in one of the final matches still being played on the day.
At second singles, Taylor faced Dakota Schroeder — who was injured last week and did not play in the match against Greenville. Schroeder made her return to the court Tuesday, though, maintaining control throughout a 6-0, 6-1 victory.
And at third singles, Mackenzie Nosker took the first set from Tippecanoe’s Mira Patel, but the freshman fought back and claimed a 3-6, 6-1, 6-1 victory.
“Katie fought real hard today, but she just couldn’t get over the hump and get ahead,” Goldner said. “Dakota’s just got better strokes, moved the ball around and made Hailey run. She’s a good player. Mackenzie showed herself real well today, going three sets. Tipp’s singles players are all solid players.”
At first doubles, Camillah Jones and Rainey Messinger defeated Cady Rhea and Kit Wolke 6-3, 6-0, and at second doubles, the all-senior team of Claire Wint and Annie Livesay defeated Esha Patel and Ainsley Savard 6-0, 6-1.
“Their doubles, they’ve had some experience from last year,” Goldner said. “They’ve got good doubles teams. They volley a little better than we do and are a little more consistent — and that’s huge in doubles.”
And with the GWOC and sectional tournament fast approaching, Goldner would like to see his Trojans fix some issues as they travel to Greenville Wednesday and Piqua Thursday to finish off division play.
“We’re still fighting some easy-ball errors,” Goldner said. “Sometimes in doubles, we get someone moving to the middle and don’t go down the line — we’ve been working at it all year. We’ve got to start picking up on that to get better. And when you get an easy ball, by know you should know what to do with it.
“I’m not faulting our effort. I’m just faulting some of our execution.”
And even with the result, the rivalry still remains a friendly one.
“Mark Goldner always puts a great team on the court, and it’s always great competition playing against Troy,” Matthews said. “On the court, these girls are rivals. But off the court, we couldn’t respect them, their players and their program more. These girls all know each other. It’s always good competition on the court and a better friendship off the court between us, and we hope to continue that tradition for a very long time.”
Contact Josh Brown at (937) 552-2132, or follow @TroyDailySports on Twitter.