Braves sweep Cougars in local boys tennis matchup; host Eastern on Thursday

BROWNSTOWN — Coach Donnie Thomas says he likes the team effort his Brownstown Central boys tennis team is putting out these days.

The Braves picked up their fifth straight win Tuesday by blanking Trinity Lutheran 5-0.

No. 1 singles went to a tiebreaker before Brownstown’s Smith Hackman topped Solomon Hall 4-6, 6-4, 10-3.

The Braves won the other four points in straight sets with Pierson Wheeler topping Jonathan Neawedde 6-1, 6-1 at two singles, and Lane Steward was a 6-4, 6-3 winner over Nathan Finke at No. 3 singles.

Wheeler is 14-0 for the season, and Steward raised his record to 12-2.

Steward has been at No. 3 singles all season, and he said he likes that position.

“I like being able to play by myself. It feels good to win by yourself and get all the credit. I think my forehand is the strongest part of my game,” he said.

As far as getting his first serve in, he said it depends on the day.

“I like to hit a slice on my first serve, and it goes in 95% of the time,” he said.

“It feels good for the team to win,” he added. “I think we’ve finally found the right pieces to the puzzle. We’re finally starting to get each other in and pumping each other up, not getting down on ourselves. It feels good to finally start winning. I think we’ve got a good shot at sectional now. It will be tough, but I think if we bring our A game, we’ll be fine.”

At No. 1 doubles, Chase Brock and Evan Schneider defeated Drew Kerkhof and Will Gausman 7-5, 6-2, and at No. 2, Brady Davis and Max Peters were 6-0, 6-1 winners against Luke Schepman and Brody Brown.

Thomas said, “Doubles is looking a little better. They’re moving with the ball and playing the ball a little better. We tried to work on that in practice (Monday).

“Chase is serving a lot better. He served a lot harder tonight. He hasn’t been putting enough into his serve. I think that helps Evan out a lot at the net when he gets that first serve in and has something on it. They’re doing better at that. I think they were all kind of standoffish to start with.

“I’m liking the way No. 2 doubles is playing,” he said. “They are starting to put the ball away and moving well with the ball movement up and back when they need to. That was the thing. We were just standing around a lot. I think we’re moving so much better.”

Thomas said the teamwork is improving and that Hackman, Wheeler and Steward have been playing those singles positions for three years, and they are all juniors.

“I’m wanting them to be a little bit more leaders than they are. These guys aren’t losing at two and three,” he said.

Trinity’s usual No. 2 singles player, Jack Stuckwisch, was out with an injury.

“We had a different lineup, and I think we played well at some spots. We just didn’t play well enough of the time to finish points,” coach Brad Emerson said. “We still need to close and put away points when we have opportunities to, and we just didn’t do that. We gave them one extra shot, and they’re athletic enough where they’re going to get balls back. There wasn’t anything fancy about it.

“We didn’t know how to put points away. We need to be more aggressive, work on our overheads and work on closing volleys and just being patient, too,” Emerson added. “That’s part of the game. When you get people that push the ball like they did, it can be frustrating, but there are limitations to players that just slice the ball all the time, and we’ve got to learn to deal with that.”

Brownstown (7-5) will host Eastern on Thursday for a Mid-Southern Conference match, and Trinity (6-5) will travel to Hauser on Thursday.