Grand Haven boys tennis team celebrates Senior Night with win over East Kentwood

Josh VanDyke • Sep 29, 2017 at 12:34 AM

GRAND HAVEN TWP. — It was a bittersweet moment for seven seniors on the Grand Haven boys tennis program Thursday as they competed on their home court for the final time in their high school careers.

The Buccaneers had to fend off a pesky East Kentwood team, 5-3, to ensure a celebratory mood among the Grand Haven faithful.

“It didn’t go exactly like we had planned, but any win in this conference is a good win,” said Grand Haven head coach Chris Wilton after the match. “East Kentwood has really improved a lot over the past couple years, and they showed some of that against us today.

“Our Nos. 2, 3 and 4 doubles were all in close matches, but it just didn’t work out for them today.”

The Bucs were powered by their singles flights, which swept all four matches.

Sophomore Noah Bachmann was the first off the court, winning his No. 1 singles match, 6-0 and 6-0. Senior Spencer Sortman was the next off the court with another 6-0, 6-0 match at No. 2 singles.

Fellow senior Riley Wilton made short work of his counterpart, as well, winning 6-1 and 6-3 at No. 3 singles. Senior Nathan Sexton had to battle at No. 4 singles, but came out with well-earned, three-set win, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.

The best doubles performance came from senior Dylan Shenefield and junior Mason Price at No. 1 doubles.

The upperclassmen duo put together one of their stronger performances of the season, beating their opponents, 6-1 and 6-0. The longest match of the day was at No. 2 doubles with junior Chris Akselberg and sophomore Weston Taylor. After falling 7-6 in the first set, the duo came back to take Set 2 by a score of 6-2, but fell in the third set, 6-4.

Seniors John Richardson and Matt Baldus at No. 3 doubles played a very competitive first set, but lost 10-8 in the first set tiebreaker and dropped a 6-3 decision in the second set. The No. 4 doubles team of freshmen Ian Rant and Brayden Rowley lost their first set, but won a very good second set, before losing in a third set, 6-1.

Wilton was happy to see the the team pull out the win in the final home match for seniors Matt Baldus, Corbin Johnson, John Richardson, Nathan Sexton, Dylan Shenefield, Spencer Sortman and Riley Wilton.

“I want to personally thank the seven seniors we have on our team that have been with our program for many years,” Wilton added. “They have been the heart of the team and this program, and I appreciate their commitment and effort.

“They’ve been in the program since they were in sixth grade, so it’s been great. They’ve been working hard for the program for so long, and there’s relationships built through that time. I still remember when this group came out for tennis for the first time way back when, so it’s a special day for them, and I’m happy we were able to win as a team and celebrate the seniors afterward.

“It’s going to be sad to see them leave. They’ve pushed the program to new limits and now its up to the classes after them to maintain that level of success and continue to build.”

Grand Haven wraps up its regular season with road matches at Rockford and Whitehall next week, followed by the O-K Red Conference tournament next Saturday.

“How we do against Rockford will determine where we finish in the conference, so that’s exciting,” said Wilton. “Hopefully, we can move up a spot if we are able to beat them. If we don’t, we will end up in the same position we were in last season.

“We’re feeling pretty good right now. Our singles players are hitting the ball pretty well right now, and a few of our doubles teams are putting together some strong performances, too. They just need to improve on some small technical and mental things, and if they can do that, they will start winning some of those close matches.”

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