By Rick Teverbaugh
The Herald Bulletin
---- — ANDERSON — Sometimes in sports, the only way to calculate the heart of an athlete is to put that athlete in a back-to-the-wall, winner-take-all position.
That's exactly where Alexandria's No. 2 singles player Andy Rowe found himself on Thursday afternoon in the sectional semifinal match against Anderson.
When Rowe's match was completed, Alexandria had a 3-2 victory and a berth in today's championship against the Lapel Bulldogs.
Rowe lost 6-2 in the opening set of his match against the Indians' Nick Whitaker. Alexandria, at that point, was well on its way to a pair of doubles victories but still needed a singles win to advance.
"Anderson moved a different player to No. 3 singles (Dax Swanson) from when we played them the first time," said Alex coach Matt DeVault. "We won at No. 3 singles the first time we played." But Swanson topped the Tigers' Logan Clark 7-5, 7-5 on Thursday.
"We lost at No. 1 and No. 2 singles the first time," said DeVault. If that held true again on this night, the Tigers would be finished as a team this year.
Rowe had other ideas.
"I needed to battle back," said Rowe. "He (Whitaker) was in control. I had to calm myself down. I switched from topspin to underspin and that helped me."
Rowe needed to hold serve at 5-6 in the second set to force a tie-breaker and he did that. Then he won the tie-breaker 7-4.
The third set was tightly contested. But once again the key serve fell to Rowe. He was serving for not only his match for the entire team ahead 5-4. He again was able to hold and it gave the Tigers a chance to play for the title today.
"I felt confident serving at 5-4," said Rowe. "Then when I got up 40-30, I thought I could pull it off."
"I think Andy was more patient this time," said DeVault. "He mixed up his style of play."
Anderson's Joe Moran put the pressure on Rowe by fighting through a tough match against Mason Ward, winning 7-6, 6-3.
The sweep by Alexandria in doubles set the stage for Rowe's heroics.
At No. 1, Layton Carroll and Isaac Collis teamed for a 6-2, 6-2 triumph over Anderson's Zach Abbott and Jason Kabir. Then at No.2, Josh Deutsch and Matthew Hensley won 6-4, 6-0 against Eli Miller and Connor Hall.
"There just wasn't a dominant team this year (in the county)," said DeVault. "I expected most of the sectional matches would be 3-2. It's a matter of how the teams matchup against each other."
So the Frankton Eagles lost only two matches all year and the Pendl;eton Heights Arabians were Madison County Tournament champions. Neither one made it to the sectional finals.
The championship will be held at Highland at 4:30 p.m.