By Travis Whitton
For The Herald Bulletin
---- — ELWOOD – On a hot, humid day it was the Pendleton Heights Arabians who outlasted the heat and Elwood Panthers en route to a 5-0 victory to ensure their place in the Madison County boys tennis tournament finals today.
The Panthers (2-3) hosted the semi-final match, but Pendleton’s Ben Augsburger wasn’t kind to the hosts as he knocked off Austin Poor 6-0, 6-2 at No. 1 singles to get things started.
Zach Howe, at No. 2 singles for the Arabians, made quick work of Elwood’s Derek Wiand 6-2, 6-2, and at No. 3 it was Evan Crooks in a more competitive match against Derek Sim. Crooks eventually walked off the court with the 6-3, 6-3 advantage.
The Panthers coach, Max Hoppel said that he was pleased with sophomore Sim’s effort since it was the first time he had played singles in his career.
The No. 1 doubles team of Mitch Staley and Sam McKinney took a 6-2, 6-1 win over Dakin Updegraff and Jordan Arehart while Noah Fawcett and JD Thompson defeated Gabe Starcher and Marcus Kaszuba to round out the Arabian winners.
Despite the lopsided score, Elwood’s Hoppel said that coaching the boys after being out of coaching boys for the last few years has been a great experience.
“These guys are a breath of fresh air for me,” he said. “They come to practice and want to practice. They’ll whine when we go over to get on the line (for wind sprints), but when we start running sprints all they want to do is beat each other. It’s perfect, it’s just perfect.”
Hoppel said that he’s going to talk to his team about putting this loss to bed and being ready for today’s match at home against Anderson for third place.
“The sun’s going to come up, it’s over. It’s behind us,” said the Elwood coach. “Go out and play hard every day, and you’re always trying to learn something every match you play and it’ll make you a better player.”
Pendleton coach, Royce Hammel said that despite his confidence in his team’s play, he wasn’t going to assume an easy win over the Panthers.
“We’ve been playing pretty good since our first match of the season, but anytime you go onto someone else’s court you’ve always got to be leery of who they’ve got,” he said. “Elwood’s won a couple of matches and got some players coming up and playing well, so you’ve just got to be careful.”
Hammel said that his team looks forward to avenging a 4-1 loss a couple of weeks ago to Frankton in the county tourney finals today.
“They got us on the first match, we maybe weren’t as mentally ready,” said the Arabians coach of the upcoming finals matchup with the Eagles. “We know what they have. We know we could’ve played better. I’m sure all of them could’ve played better. Let’s go out and give them a run for it.”