ELWOOD — The sun was setting in the west and the first four matches had been settled long ago.
But the sound of two competitors giving it their all on the tennis court reverberated at the Elwood High School tennis courts Wednesday evening. Pendleton Heights had already advanced as a team, winning the first four matches, but one outcome was left undetermined.
It was the No.1 singles match pitting Pendleton Heights’ Noah Gaar against Elwood’s Gabe Starcher. The two actually were the first to start playing but right at two hours later, they were the last to finish.
Starcher took the first set 6-2 before Gaar rebounded and won set two 6-4. After it was determined that a third set instead of a 10-point tiebreaker was necessary to decide the match, Gaar and Starcher hit several long volleys before Starcher took the final four games to win 6-3.
Starcher advances in the individual tournament, which continues next week at Marion. “I punched him in the arm because my per diem is going down and I have to work another week,” said a smiling Elwood coach Max Hoppel. “I thought he was going to be our No. 2 doubles (starting the season) but he matured some mentally. He doesn’t quit.”
In the earlier matches, the host Panthers put up a fight but the Arabians were ready. Pendleton’s Noah Fawcett swept the No. 2 singles match 6-0, 6-0 over Derek Wiand and the No. 1 doubles team of Mitch Staley and Sam McKinney defeated Austyn Poor and Jordan Arehart 6-1,6-2.
Jonathan Stump won the first set in his No. 3 singles match against Derek Sims 6-1 and led 5-2 in the second set before Sims roared back to force a tiebreaker. Stump took the tiebreaker and the match 7-6.
The Arabians’ duo of Ben Kane and Nate Norris won the No. 2 doubles match 6-1, 6-4 for the final Arabian win.
“We all played well in certain areas,” said Pendleton coach Royce Hammel. “Our No. 1 doubles (Staley, McKinney) always seem ready to come out ready to play. Fawcett came out and played well too.”
Pendleton’s win sets up a rubber match with Frankton today at Elwood. The two schools split matches earlier in the year, both by a 3-2 count. “It’ll be 3-2 somebody,” said Hammel of the matchup with the Eagles. “It will be a dogfight.”
Elwood finishes 6-11 and will lose seniors Wiand, Poor and Arehart. “I’m proud of the way they played,” said Hoppel. “We improved at the right time, when we had to.”