5/1/2014 2:20:00 PM Marauders tennis wins rubber match, advances to Elite 8 of state
Senior Talon Walz gives his younger brother Turner a hug after Turner and doubles partner Logan Conella won their doubles match 8–4, advancing the Marauders to the second round of the team state tournament. VVN/Travis Guy
Talon Walz fires back a return in his 6–4, 6–4 singles win at court No. 1 against Prescott High School. VVN/Travis Guy
In high school sports the focus is usually aimed at upperclassmen because of the experience and leadership they offer their team, but in the opening round of the team state tournament, the focus was on two underclassmen, the future of the Marauders tennis program.
On April 29 the No. 11 Mingus Union boy's tennis team traveled to rival No. 6 Prescott for the opening round of state. The squads had already faced each other twice, splitting matches, but the rubber match had the most riding on it. The winner would go on to the next round of state and the loser would go home, left to reflect on the season.
"The kids played really well today," said head coach Tarrin Walz. "There were a lot of times when they could have mentally imploded but they didn't. They seemed to play much stronger mentally then I've seen them play."
In team state tennis, the matches begin with singles play and instead of a 10-point tiebreaker, the athletes play three full sets if necessary. Through six matches the Mingus union and Prescott boys' tennis teams alternated points. Talon Walz, brother Turner, and first-year player Micah Nevarez all won their singles matches. The elder Walz won his match in straight sets, 6-3, 6-3, and his brother Turner won his first set 6-2 before dropping his second 6-4. The younger Walz ran through his opponent in the third set, winning 6-1. Senior Nevarez also won his match in straight sets, 6-4, 6-4.
"All throughout school I was picking up my racquet and dong a couple swings," Turner said. "I was just thinking about how my guy played, I knew everything about him. I knew how much top spin he had and every aspect of his game. I just figured out how to beat him and got comfortable."
As each Mingus win walked off the court, they had a loss walk off too. Seniors Tanner Caron (6-4, 1-6, 2-6) and Gary Baker (4-6, 2-6) dropped their matches and sophomore Logan Conella admittedly had an off day, dropping his singles match 3-6, 6-4, 2-6.
"I don't know, it was just one of those days I guess," Conella said. "Something every athlete has I'm sure. It was just a day where some things don't go right or your way."
Turner and doubles partner Conella waited in the wings as the doubles portion of the match began. With the match knotted at three, the sophomores would only take the court if the teams split the first two doubles matches. At doubles No. 1, Caron and Baker were unable to find any rhythm and were blanked, 8-0. The doubles win gave the Badgers the lead, but it was clear they were going to lose at court No. 2. Talon and Nevarez were in control of the match for the entire time and won 8-6, shutting down a Prescott comeback.
With the score tied at four, the sophomores were already on court No. 3 and playing their match. The team score came down to their match, but the match itself was a one-sided affair. Conella, despite not playing like he can, was able to lean on his partner Turner, who was on fire, and the duo trumped their opponents 8-4. The win gave the Marauders the team victory, 5-4, and they advance to the second round of state.
"It feels really good," Conella said. "I think us coming away with a loss last time really helped us this time because we didn't come into it with big heads or anything and we knew we would have to play hard to take it."
After the win, the Marauders were hoping that Flagstaff High School would be able to beat Williams Field. If the Eagles made it past the No. 3 seed, they would travel to Cottonwood for another D-II, Section-5 rubber match.
"It feels great (the win), its nice," Tarrin said. "Now if flagstaff can do their part, we'll host them next time."
But the Eagles were not able to get past the undefeated Black Hawks, losing 5-0. Instead of hosting a second round match, the Marauders will travel to Williams Field on May 6 for the elite 8 showdown.
Before the Marauders travel to Gilbert for the team match, the senior Walz will be going down to the Valley for the third round of the individual state championships. Talon made it through the opening weekend by blanking his opponent from South Mountain High School 6-0, 6-0. IN his next match, he had one point scored on him, but was still triumphant 6-1, 6-0 over the No. 1 player from Lake Havasu. Now Walz has been preparing for the No. 1 seed in the tournament, Yash Parikh from Salpointe Catholic High School. Parikh has navigated his way through the first two rounds by blanking both his opponents.
In double play, the pair of Baker and Caron were unsuccessful in making it out of the opening weekend. They were matched up with a familiar foe in the first round of doubles play, Kyle Jacobsen and Stefan Schmeitenknop from Flagstaff. The Marauders knocked their section foe out of the tournament 6-3, 6-1, and advanced to face the No. 3 seed from Catalina Foothills. They were beat 6-1, 6-0 to end their state run.