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Tigers thwart Apaches in critical TRC clash

Tennis: Wabash’s Rob Ford returns a shot during Wednesday’s Three Rivers Conference meeting against Peru.

BY TRENT SCOTT - tscott@perutribune.com

PERU – With the TRC boys’ tennis race coming down to the wire, Peru and Wabash squared off Wednesday evening at Thrush Tennis Courts.

The Apaches needed a win to keep its hopes for a split of the conference title alive but the Tigers kept their unbeaten run in TRC play going with a 4-1 win.

Wabash head coach Niko Macaluso said the players understood the degree of difficulty they were dealing with and showed fight in several spots throughout the evening.

“We knew coming into the match Peru was one of the favorites in the conference,” Macaluso said. “That said, we’re pretty happy with the way everyone competed. It was 4-1 but I like where we’re at.”

Doubles play ended at nearly the same time with the hosts picking up both matches in short order as Christopher Dicken and Greyson Spohn defeated Dave Ford and Logan Luttrell at No. 1 doubles 6-1, 6-1 while Gabe Baker and Ben Beckman handled Nick Ewing and RJ Steg at No. 2 doubles 6-1, 6-0.

“(Peru) has great doubles teams and our doubles players were going to have their hands full,” Macaluso said about the tandem matches. “They played some nice points today.”

Wabash got its sole point on the board as Rob Ford won a competitive two-set match over Ryan Smith at No. 1 singles 7-5, 6-4, cutting the deficit in half at the time to 2-1.

Leif Astrup started off the match at No. 2 singles with a 5-0 lead over Asif Khan, winning the opening set 6-2 before being pushed hard in the second, eventually carrying the set 7-5 to secure the team match for the Tigers.

“Rob was pushed but he came out and played hard,” Macaluso said about Ford’s win. “Asif didn’t have his best tennis today but he came back well in the second set; that’s a match that can go either way on any given day.”

The stage then belonged to No. 3 singles, a match that would eventually run for two-and-a-half hours as Jonah France opened the first set with a 5-0 lead over Brad Ryan, only for the Peru senior to rally back and force a tiebreak, one France won 7-6 (7-3).

Ryan had a much better second set, winning 6-2 before managing to hold off a late France push in the third set for a 6-4 win to take the match and finish off the evening’s action.

“Jonah and Brad were in a thriller,” Macaluso said about the final match of the night. “It was a long match and both competed well.”

Wabash heads into a rare block of multiple days of practice before closing out conference play next Wednesday at Whitko.

Macaluso said the time would be well spent retooling some minor issues as the final week of the season approaches. “We don’t have a lot of practices during the season; we’re coming off three matches in-a-row tonight,” Macaluso said. “We’re going to use those practices to the best of our ability to work on some things. Some of the kids were struggling with their serves, not serving well today, and we have to clean some little things up. We played pretty well today and we’ll see how the sectional draw comes out.”