Southridge netters charge past Pike CentralSeptember 12, 2019
By JONATHAN SAXON
HUNTINGBURG — The last bits of the summer heat hung over Southridge’s tennis match against Pike Central like an oppressive canopy on Wednesday evening.
Raiders No. 1 singles player Austin Barkley seemed to be taking it in stride. The junior didn’t waste a lot of energy moving around the court and controlled the match tempo as he went on to defeat Quinton Sorgius (6-1, 6-1) to lead a 4-1 Raiders roll over the Chargers.
Even with the dominant win Barkley feels there were some things he could have done just a bit better.
“I felt like I played good today, but I did have some struggles,” he said. “I couldn’t get my shots down, I couldn't get the put away (shot). I got my rallies down, but I couldn’t put it away.”
Perhaps Barkley was serving as his toughest critic.
Raiders coach Paul Kinker knew Barkley was having a bit of trouble with his put-away shots, and felt that getting him back out on the court would be a good way to boost his spirits, especially in the wake of his Tuesday night loss to Forest Park’s Nathan Jarboe.
Based on what he saw, Kinker thinks Barkley took a step forward against Pike Central.
“He needed to go out there and play,” said Kinker. “That’s why I put him out there tonight to see if he could come back and play. He needed more confidence with the put-away shots, and I thought he did much better tonight.”
Barkley describes himself as a baseline player who likes to rally back and forth with his opponent until he sees an opening he can exploit and lets it rip. He’s moved up from playing in the three singles slot last season and has embraced the leadership responsibilities that come with playing in the number one spot.
“It’s been fun to lead the team and motivate them to play better,” he said. “I feel like we’re doing a lot better this season overall.”
He also enjoys the challenge of facing the top player from every team the Raiders play and uses every match as an opportunity to put his mind to work before the racquets start swinging. He likes to put a lot of work in beforehand researching his opponents, and will use the warm up period to gather that last bit of data he needs to create a plan of attack.
“I usually know my opponents, so I know how they play,” he said. “During warm ups I’ll see if they have a good backhand or forehand. I’ll see if they can get to the net and put balls away.”
“He’s a very intelligent tennis player,” added Kinker. “He likes to think about who he’s playing. He’s not the hardest hitter, he’s not going to overpower you, but he’s going to outthink you. That’s his strength.”
Barkley also used the summer to combine his tennis IQ with the experience he gathered from playing in some tournaments in Evansville. So far he’s been able to put it all together for a 5-4 individual record, but he’ll have plenty of opportunities to beef that up with five matches in the next seven days starting with Crawford County on Thursday. He’s still working to get himself into the best fighting shape he can for sectionals, and has a list of tools he wants to sharpen up with the last three weeks of the regular season.
“I’m really trying to get my big rallies down and get my put away shots back,” he said. “They’ve been off a couple of weeks or so. Just get my rallies and big serves in.”
As for the rest of the team, Kinker thinks the boys have put together a solid season so far, but he’s looking forward to this next gauntlet of tennis matches to see how his team reacts to the stress of so many matches packed into such a short period of time. He recognizes the Raiders face a tough sectional down the road, so the more seasoning they can load up with before the postseason, the better in his eyes.
“Our doubles by far are our strong point this season,” he said. “(In) singles we’re relying on one to two points off of them. Our expectation is to play well, be competitive in the PAC and hopefully have fun doing it.”
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