GRAND HAVEN — With the match between Grand Haven and Grandville tied at four wins apiece, Grand Haven junior Ian Rant was the last one on the court.
With his teammates and opponents watching, he saved his best act for the third set against Max Unbrey, slowly chipping away little by little. By the end of his nearly 2-hour match, persistence paid off as Rant won his 4-singles match 6-7 (4), 6-2, 6-3 to secure the match victory for the Bucs.
“Not many,” Rant said when asked how many 3-set matches he’d been involved in. “That’s my second one against Grandville, but both of them I’ve won, so I’m very happy.”
Unbrey was a tricky opponent for the Bucs junior, as Grandville’s 4-singles player was happy just to keep the ball in the court, not forcing the issue in his own favor but instead looking to frustrate Rant and wait for a mistake.
“We were evenly matched,” Rant said. “I had to be solid with myself, I had to be the one encouraging myself and pushing myself to do as well as I did.”
Rant’s win was part of a clean sweep of the singles flights for the Bucs. There was normalcy at the top two positions for Grand Haven, as Noah Bachmann beat Grandville’s Jason Li 6-0, 6-0. Freshman Issac Postema was matched up with a fellow first-year player in Jordan Kalman, and Postema had it fairly easy in a 6-2, 6-0 win.
“Our top three singles did a great job,” Grand Haven head coach Chris Wilton said. “They kept the ball in nicely which was tough with the wind, and in the doubles, they had some good players. They were aggressive and solid.”
Just one doubles match went Grand Haven’s way, as the 3-doubles team of Carter Prieditis and Brayden Rowley were 6-3, 6-3 winners against Grandville’s Carter Beeuker and Nick Arlen.
“They fought,” Wilton said. “They weren’t always playing the greatest, but they fought hard and did a nice job.”
There was a comfortable win at 3-singles for Bucs senior Weston Taylor, as Sam Emaus was swept aside 6-1, 6-0. Taylor dropped his only game at the start of the first set, but from there it was smooth sailing.
“I just had to keep playing points out,” Taylor said. “Once I got through them, the momentum just came and I kept going. Once I had the momentum it eased up.”
Grandville’s strength came in numbers, with four wins out of the five doubles matches. Aashray Mandala and Josh Schmidt were the closest to a crucial win for the Bucs, narrowly losing the first set 6-4 to Grandville’s Ian Doyle and Caleb Sheehan. There was even a glimmer of hope after breaking to go 5-4 up in the second set, but the pair of Bulldog seniors rallied to take the second set 7-5 to win the match.
“They’re right there,” Wilton said. “We’re working with them and all of the doubles teams to work on some things. It’s showing up, they were close in that second set and it just didn’t turn out in the end.”
The 2-doubles, 4-doubles and 5-doubles matches all went the way of Grandville without much fuss. However, Rant was able to step up at a crucial point.
After rebounding to win the second set without much trouble, Rant seemed to finally have Unbrey figured out. However, with the other matches slowly ending the two were the last ones on the court, adding a little extra drama and intrigue as well as more sets of eyeballs on the remaining match.
Wilton made a smart choice in terms of what he told the junior in-between games. That is to say, very little.
Did Rant know his match would decide the result of the day for his team?
“No he did not,” Wilton said. “I made the decision not to. I didn’t want any more pressure or any more baggage on him.”
It paid off, as the junior was able to start coming through when it counted the most. As for a secret to his success?
“I don’t know,” Rant said, giving a wry smile and shaking his head. “I just started hitting the ball in. I had a good talk with my coach, and something just clicked in my head. I realized what I had to do, and I just went out and did it.”
Contact Kyle Turk at email@example.com or on Twitter @KyleTurkGHT.