A season-long daily quest for improvement paid off Monday night as the boys’ tennis team edged 30th-ranked Mt. Vernon 3-2 on the road to win the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship.
With the victory, the Eagles were able to reclaim the HHC traveling trophy, a painted wooden racket. Delta had to give up the racket on Aug. 30 when they lost to Greenfield, but Mt. Vernon a few days later took the racket from Greenfield and defended it until Delta got it back Monday night.
A brutal early season schedule resulted in a 2-6 record for the Eagles at one point. But the Eagles worked hard to get better and finished the regular season winning 12 of their last 14 matches.
Although this is Delta’s fifth straight HHC championship and their league-record 23rd title, it was one of the most difficult to achieve. Mt. Vernon, Greenfield, Shelbyville, New Castle and Yorktown all had strong teams this fall, and Delta returned only two full-time varsity players from a year ago.
On Monday night, the Eagles’ seniors simply would not be denied.
Seniors Riley Bratton and Colin McCrady, who teamed up at midseason, won 6-2, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles. They started strong, then fell behind 0-4 in the second set before reeling off six straight games for the win.
Senior Isaac Anderson, in his first year of varsity play, then teamed with first-year varsity teammate Jake Bilby to win 7-6 (2), 6-3 at No. 2 doubles. Bilby was playing in place of junior Preston Shanayda, who missed the match due to illness.
And with the match tied at 2-2, it came down to Delta’s fourth senior, Owen Vest. He was facing Mt. Vernon’s Manny Downs, who had only lost a small number of times this season. But Owen played an outstanding match under pressure and won 6-3, 6-3 to clinch the team victory.
Owen was 1-7 at one point this season, but showed great resiliency in managing 10 wins in his last 12 matches (and one of those two losses could be attributed to cramps). Included in that stretch have been many excellent victories, including 6-0, 6-0 over New Castle’s Sam Underhill, 6-1, 6-1 over Lapel’s Isaac Bair, and 6-1, 6-0 over Pendleton’s Austin Perny.
Mt. Vernon collected its points at No. 1 singles and No. 3 singles. The Marauders’ Adam Koon is an All-State level player at No. 1 singles with only one loss this season. He was the first to finish on Monday night, beating Dalton Royal 1-6, 0-6. After Delta swept the doubles matches, Mt. Vernon’s Tate Cougill then defeated Delta’s Kody Vest 3-6, 4-6, setting up Owen Vest’s last-match heroics.
Delta’s JV team gained a 9-3 victory over the Marauders. All of the doubles matches were close, but Delta won all seven by scores of 6-4, 6-4, 6-3, 7-6, 7-6, 7-5 and 6-4. Simon Marlow added a 6-0 win at No. 1 singles and Daniel Tokar gained a 6-1 win at No. 5 singles.
The JV team completed a perfect 7-0 season against HHC opponents and finished 16-6 overall.
Doubles winners on Monday night were Caleb Hewitt/Will Kile, Brady Williams/Aaron Elliott, Ben Miller/John Atkinson, Kam Swoboda/James Root, Kaden Crist/Jacob Williams, Heath Sprague/Hanson Heintzelman, and Matteo Caddedu/Alex Smith. Seven of those players are freshmen.
Delta will next play against Muncie Burris in the opening round of the Delta Sectional a 4:45 p.m. Wednesday. Yorktown and Muncie Central will face off at the same time Thursday. The championship will be 11 a.m. Saturday. The Eagles are aiming for their 30th consecutive sectional title.
The final 2022 HHC standings:
Mt. Vernon 5-2
New Castle 4-3
New Palestine 1-6
Pendleton Heights 0-7
FINAL JV INDIVIDUAL RECORDS
Matteo Caddedu 8-4
Heath Sprague 5-7
Jake Bilby 4-6
Simon Marlow 11-9
Caleb Hewitt 14-9
Will Kile 13-8
Hanson Heintzelman 8-4
James Engle 3-5
Justus Subler 2-11
Owen Cupp 19-5
Kam Swoboda 15-6
James Root 15-7
Aaron Elliott 15-9
Ben Miller 14-11
Brady Williams 13-7
John Atkinson 15-5
Kaden Crist 14-5
Jacob Williams 8-15
Alexander Smith 7-6
Ayden Mitchell 9-11
Daniel Tokar 3-11