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Grosse Pointes

Grosse Pointe South takes crosstown match 6-2

Nicholas Paolucci leads way for Blue Devils over North

September 18, 2013

» click to enlarge «
South’s Nicholas Paolucci, a junior and No. 1 singles player, lines up a shot during the North match. The Blue Devils came away with a 6-2 victory.

GROSSE POINTE — The only thing hotter than the weather the night of Sept. 11 was the start that the boys tennis team from Grosse Pointe South got off to in their match with its crosstown rivals from Grosse Pointe North.

The Blue Devils raced out to a 5-0 lead and wound up taking six of the eight matches to claim a 6-2 victory against North.

In the No.1 singles match, South junior Nicholas Paolucci set the tone for his team by winning in straight sets without dropping a game. South swept the first set in all of the singles matches — something that South coach John Willard said was very important to accomplish, given the heat index that neared 100 degrees. 

“That was huge for the singles players to get ahead. I told each one of them that they would be battling today, that there were going to be some close matches in singles, and those guys came out ready to play, and that helped them with their confidence to win the second set,” Willard said.

North’s Matthew Kain provided the bright spot for the Norsemen in singles competition, as he rallied to win his match after dropping the first set. Kain said that he changed his strategy to wear down his opponent.

“I just stuck with grinding it out; that’s how I win most of my matches. I was trying to put away all of his lobs in the first set and that wasn’t working, so I decided that I could do this all day. That was my strategy in the second and third set … so I just stuck with that,” Kain said.

North coach John VanAlst praised the efforts of Kain to salvage a win for his side in singles.

“Matthew Kain has got to be one of the most mentally tough players I’ve seen in quite some time. When the chips are down, he’s really the type of guy you want on your side, really working toward the end. He knows what his goal is, and just puts his mind to it and just gets it done, and he’s just a fabulous kid to have on the team,” VanAlst said.

The doubles matches started out competitively, but the key turning point came from the No. 1 doubles match when South’s Victor Flynn and Will Norris rallied to force a tiebreak to win the first set. Flynn and Norris built on the momentum from the end of the first set to take the second set 6-2.

“They did a great job. I think the senior leadership of Victor Flynn really came through in that one. To win the first set, they knew that was going to be key, and then they did a great job winning the second set but winning the first was really key,” Willard said.

Flynn said that after trying to rally with their opponents, he and Norris decided to force the action themselves, something that they have been practicing this fall.

“The big thing we’re working on that was different from last year  … was to close off the net and to end the points instead of rallying,” Flynn said. “That was a big part of both of our games last year, so instead of just taking it back and forth, we’re moving in and taking it into the net.”

South would take two of the other three doubles matches in straight sets, but North’s Josh Champney and Mitch Zacharias broke through to win the No. 2 doubles match 7-6, 6-3. Although North lost three of the four doubles matches, VanAlst was pleased with his players’ performance and expects them to improve going forward.

“Doubles were really tight. I think doubles are our stronger component as a whole, and I think that our doubles teams are some of the best and can compete with some of the best in the state,” VanAlst said. “I push them, and it takes them about until the third week of September for them to start playing together, jelling and really owning it, and luckily we do, because the second week of October is when regionals start, and that’s what we’re geared for.”

Both teams will continue their schedules in the MAC Red, as South is scheduled to host Port Huron Northern on Sept. 23 while North will travel to Utica Eisenhower the same day.

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