Pats top Raiders in tennisApril 22, 2021
By COREY STOLZENBACH
HUNTINGBURG - Everything hinged on Thursday's Two Singles match between Heritage Hills junior Liz Gehlhausen and fellow junior Olivia Lopez of Southridge.
The Patriots (5-3, 2-3) and Raiders (6-5, 4-3) had two points each in this Pocket Athletic Conference matchup, and the winner of this match would determine which team won.
Gehlhausen took the first set, 6-4, but the two grinded in the tiebreaker of the second set. Lopez led during the tiebreaker, but Gehlhausen pulled through for an 8-6 tiebreaker win for a 7-6 win in the second set. That gave her and her team the match with a 3-2 win - the team's first two-match winning streak of the season.
"I just had to stick in and realize what I had to do to win," Gehlhausen said. "I had to keep a level head and not get too weirded out or messed up and stuff - and just had to do what you have to do."
She credited the support that she received after the rest of her teammates finished their matches for willing her during that tiebreaker. Gehlhausen told the Herald that Lopez has a similar style to her.
Pats coach Dave Jochim advised Gehlhausen to breathe, keep it simple, keep it in play and watch her form.
"It's always hard to close out an opponent - especially when you're pretty even," Jochim said. "I think she got a little nervous, but then she came through. She came back in the tiebreaker, so I'm real proud of her."
Southridge Paul Kinker noted this wasn't the first time Lopez has played in a tiebreaker this season. Kinker thought Lopez played well in spite of the loss - citing her serves and also her back-and-forth play being better than before.
"She needs to get over the hump on winning those tiebreakers - so just consistent shots and thinking about every point, rather than the whole match," Kinker said.
The Pats enjoyed a huge breakthrough not only in the Two Singles match, but in the One Doubles match. The senior tandem of Avery Neff and Liz Mehling knocked off juniors Kelby LaRoche and Jordan Biehl, 6-2, 7-5.
Mehling and Neff became the first tandem to best Southridge in a doubles match this season.
"I think they played a hard match and they kept up with us," Neff said. "They were in the game the whole time," Neff said."
"I think we aimed our shots well," Mehling added.
Neff responded to that by saying that the two picked their places well and played together in the match.
Jochim told his players that if they play like they're capable of playing that they can compete with any doubles team.
Kinker noted how much the Raiders rely on their doubles play, but the One Doubles team of Biehl and LaRoche had a tough opponent that outplayed them on Thursday. He thought Neff and Mehling executed their shots better, and though Southridge tried a comeback in the second set, it wasn't enough.
"This is our fifth loss of 2-3," he said. "We're trying to find that elusive third point for all these matches that we're losing."
He believes that Lopez and senior Three Singles player Abby Kerkhoff are getting stronger each match, though Kerkhoff needs to get stronger with her shot making. Kerkhoff fell, 6-2, 6-0, to fellow senior Emily Patmore of the Pats.
Kinker touted the experience that junior One Singles Olivia Durcholz has, and Durcholz came through with a win against fellow junior Kennedy Tate, 6-0, 6-4, on Thursday. However, he said Southridge's other two singles players are getting more experience as the matches go by.
The Raiders have a challenge ahead of them this coming week with four days of competition - all on the road. They'll play Monday at Wood Memorial, Tuesday at Boonville, Wednesday at Barr-Reeve and April 29 at Tell City.
"Tomorrow, because it has been a long week for most of them, mainly we're going to hit around a little bit," Kinker said. "The doubles - we're going to work on the shot placement and down the alleys, and singles, we're going to work on repetition of shots back-and-forth."
Heritage Hills, meanwhile, will look to build off of this win and go for its third straight win Monday at home against another PAC rival in Princeton. They'll also play Tuesday at home against PAC foe Pike Central and Wednesday at Castle.
"We do a lot of running, a lot of conditioning," Jochim said. "I think that showed up, too. I actually had a girl (say), 'I think all the running, conditioning we're doing is starting to pay off.' If you're in shape, your form and your strokes - they're going to stay consistent. When you get tired, that's when you start (to) lose focus. That's what I try to preach to these girls. I know they hate me when they have to run, but they do it with a smile on their face."
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