Pats clinch PAC tennis championship

Photo by Corey Stolzenbach/The Herald
Junior Kevin Dilger got the winning point on Saturday that gave the outright Pocket Athletic Conference title to Heritage Hills. The Patriots topped Washington, 4-1. 

By COREY STOLZENBACH
sports@dcherald.com

LINCOLN CITY - Heritage Hills boys tennis set a couple of goals for itself for the 2021 season. The first was to win the Pocket Athletic Conference, the second was to win the sectional.

The Patriots (13-2, 12-0) can now focus on that second goal, as they took care of business on Saturday with a 4-1 win against Washington to clinch the outright PAC championship. Four of their seven players in Saturday's lineup were underclassmen, and for Heritage Hills, the future is now.

"Like we told the kids here today, there's 13 teams in the PAC now - it's not like the old PAC," Pats coach Derek Prior said. "There's a lot of good teams in it - great teams, tough matches every time we come to play. So, to go 12-0 is just absolutely amazing."

Heritage Hills had already clinched a share of the Pocket Athletic Conference, with the potential to tie with Princeton for first place in the conference, but the three singles players the Pats trotted out on Saturday took care of business in short order to make sure they'd have the crown all to themselves.

Freshman No. 2 singles player Maison Ficker had strong serving on Saturday, and rode that strong serving to finish off Hatchets junior Eli Newberry. Ficker notched a 6-0, 6-0 sweep to give the Pats their first point of the day.

Needless to say, he likes this whole high school tennis thing as a freshman No. 2 singles player on a conference champion.

"I think it's going along pretty well," Ficker said. "I think I like the experience out there playing at one of the top levels in tennis."

Kayden Bell went from being the No. 2 singles player his sophomore year to No. 1 singles this year as a junior, replacing the graduated Josh Dellamuth. Dellamuth and Bell still play together on the weekends, and the former helps out the latter on his game.

"He's about the opponents and stuff," Bell said. "He played them last year. So, he's telling me their weaknesses and stuff and what I can do to get better at my game."

Bell came away with the 6-1, 6-0 win against fellow junior Jayden Meredith of Washington.

Heritage Hills needed just one more point, and it came from junior No. 3 singles player Kevin Dilger. Dilger took on Washington sophomore Elijah Parsons, whose high shot sailed over the scoring surface to seal it for the Pats. Dilger won, 6-1, 6-0.

"It feels great - I'm very happy with that," Dilger said. "I'm very happy that we won the PAC. I was really hoping we'd get that."

So, it begs the question, what separated the Pats from the PAC pack in 2021?

"The guys all really worked hard," Prior said. "We really were very successful at our one, two and three singles. Most of the season, if we were winning, 3-2, it was one, two three singles. But we've also had a couple matches where we have come through on our doubles, and two doubles (sophomore Braylon Caswell and freshman Braden Pruitt) got a big win today (6-3, 6-2 against juniors Ryan Emmick and Alex Meyers) - those guys are new. One doubles (senior Kyle Eubank and freshman Matthew Kress) played a really tough, tough team right there (seniors Caleb Armstrong and Jaylyn Rook in a 3-6, 3-6 score), and they just battled the entire time."

"I think it's just our determination," Dilger said. "We have a lot of skill on our team, a lot of talent and I think that we really wanted this PAC. So, we were really using our skill to push our way through the PAC and we won."

It'll be a busy next several days for Heritage Hills, who is set to find out whom and when it'll be playing on Monday when the tennis sectional drawing takes place. That's also when the Pats are set for one final regular season match at Wood Memorial before the Boonville sectional later in the week.

"We talk about it every match - just we need to work on our fundamentals every match," Prior said. "Don't get out of doing what our strengths are and just to continue to get better every day."




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