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STORY: Heritage beats Menchville 6-3, takes control of PD boys tennis race
Thanks in part to Tonique Merrell's thrilling, 3 1/2-hour victory at No. 1 singles, Heritage took control of the Peninsula District boys tennis race with a 6-3 victory at Menchville.
Defending district champion Merrell outlasted his top rival, Aaron Brownell, 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2) Tuesday as afternoon turned into night. That helped the Hurricanes gain an insurmountable 5-3 lead before it became too dark to continue on Menchville's unlighted hard courts.
Wednesday afternoon, the dual match ended as Merrell and Creighton Jones defeated Brownell and Doug McDowell 8-5 at No. 1 doubles, a result that will help determine seedings for the district tournament.
Heritage improved to 5-0 in the district, while Menchville fell to 4-1. Bethel is the only unbeaten team in district play besides Heritage, and the Hurricanes will be a clear favorite to beat the Bruins when they play April 24 at Bethel.
The match began with five singles matches, all of which ended in straight sets and left Heritage ahead 3-2. No. 2 Jones, No. 3 Dimitri Carney and No. 5 Harrison Gaskins won for the Hurricanes, while No. 4 Andrew Abeyounis and No. 6 Alex Liles prevailed for the Monarchs.
Meanwhile, the guys on the No. 1 court played ... and played ... and played. It was a match worthy of the relatively few spectators who saw it.
Brownell, a 6-foot-6 left-hander with seemingly unlimited reach, came into the match with confidence from having beaten Merrell in a semifinal of the early-season Newport News Invitational. That was a turnaround from last year, when Merrell beat him in the regular season and the district tournament final. Both were Eastern Region semifinalists in 2006.
The Menchville star won the first set 7-5 and was serving for victory at 5-4, 30-15, but then the match turned as he began to struggle with cramps, Monarchs coach Steve Sipe said.
Merrell, a far shorter player blessed with the district's best speed and plenty of power, broke to even the match and won the next two games to force a third set.
While Nos. 2 and 3 doubles were being contested nearby, No. 1 singles kept going. Finally, it went to a tiebreaker, and Merrell came up with the clutch shots to win it 7-2.
"That's the best I've ever seen Tonique play," Menchville coach Steve Sipe said.
Coupled with a victory at No. 2 doubles by Jeter and Carney, it was enough to give Heritage the team triumph. They edged Abeyounis and Liles 6-2, 1-6, 7-5, offsetting a three-set victory at third doubles by the Monarchs' Nick Malliarakis and Tyler Caccavale.
Sipe said he now expected the Hurricanes to win the district. He said his regular No. 3 player, Christian Platon, hadn't recovered well enough from an ankle injury to take the court, and that Menchville No. 5 man Cameron Kim missed the match due to a 103-degree fever.
Despite the loss, Sipe complimented Abeyounis and Liles for winning in singles and for playing what he considered their highly favored doubles opponents to a close match. Sipe said he occasionally had been disappointed when they played doubles with other teammates.
"I've got to hand it to Andrew Abeyounis and Alex Liles," he said. "Together they played unbelievable."
HERITAGE 6, MENCHVILLE 3
SINGLES – Merrell (H) d. Brownell 5-7, 7-5, 7-6 (7-2); Jones (H) d. Malliarakis 6-2, 6-0; Carney (H) d. Caccavale 6-4, 6-1; Abeyounis (M) d. Jeter 6-4, 6-1; Gaskins (H) d. McDowell 6-1, 6-1; Liles (M) d. Malone 6-4, 6-2. DOUBLES – Merrell-Jones d. Brownell-McDowell 8-5; Jeter-Carney d. Abeyounis-Liles 6-2, 1-6, 7-5; Malliarakis-Caccavale d. Gaskins-Malone 6-2, 5-7, 6-2. Records – Heritage 5-0 Peninsula District, Menchville 4-1 district.
Last edited by Sonny Dearth : 04-18-2007 at 05:34 PM.
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