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BOYS' TENNIS: Breaking bad

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Momentum loss dooms doubles duo

By John Herndon

Most athletes welcome a break, but Eric Steedly and Zack Allen might have wanted to go on playing tennis last Tuesday.

The Anderson County duo had just completed a red-hot second set, defeating Franklin County’s Brian Steitz and James Robb 6-3, sending the Region 8 tournament quarterfinal to a deciding third set. The rules dictate a 10-minute break between the second and third sets, but the stoppage could not have come at a worse time for Steedly and Allen.

Steitz and Robb regrouped to win the final set and take a 6-2, 3-6, 6-2 win on their way to a regional doubles championship. The tourney was held at Franklin County High School.

The Franklin pair won the first three games of the final set and were never seriously threatened again.

“The 10-minute break really cooled them off,” said Anderson co-coach Steve Rucker.

Robb and Steitz took complete control, coming back from a 30-40 deficit in the first game, then winning a service break to go up 2-0. The Flyer pair showed outstanding power and worked the net extensively in the final set.

Steedly and Allen, seeded sixth, appeared ready to pull a major upset when Steitz and Robb wrested control. When the teams played in the regular season, the Franklin pair won in straight sets.

“I think we did pretty good,” said Allen, a junior. “They are a good team.”

What had appeared to be a rout early, quickly turned when Allen and Steedly went up 4-1 in the second set, then split the next four games. “I was pretty excited right then,” Steedly said.

The pair, along with the other Anderson tandem of Jerry Hockensmith and Tyler Hyatt, advanced farther at the regional than any Bearcat entry since Aaron Hume and T.J. Spivey won a regional championship in 2005.

Steedly and Allen did not team up until the final month of the season. Earlier, they had been playing as the two top singles entries, but Rucker and co-coach Jeremy Cook decided to start playing them as a doubles team.

“I think that helped us out,” Steedly said of the shifting around.

It also helped Hockensmith and Hyatt, who had become a mild suprise by advancing to the quarters despite not being seeded. They bowed out, falling to Franklin County’s other tandem, third-seeded Barrett Meyer and Tyler Pruitt, 6-3, 6-1. Pruitt is the son of a former Anderson County cheerleader, Lana Manley Pruitt.

“It makes me very proud,” Hockensmith said of the finish. “They took advantage of our mistakes.

Eariler, the pair had defeated the Western Hills team of Noel Hudson and Dillon Mann in a three-set upset. Hockensmith and Hyatt captured the final set 6-4 to advance and defeat the Carroll County team of Ryan Miles-Brandon Stewart in straight sets.

“We had not played the Western Hills team as a team before,” Hyatt said. The Wolverines had scored a win over Hockensmith and Derek Royalty but this time things changed.

Anderson also got a nice performance from Levi Cox, who advanced to the second round of the singles tournament. Cox rolled past North Bullitt’s Jake Compton in the first round but dropped a pair of 6-0 sets to Western Hills’ Andrew Harrod, the No. 1 seed. “Levi just got a bad draw,” Rucker said. “He played well.”

E-mail John Herndon at jpherndon@theandersonnews.com