Rivet's boys tennis team is the defending champion at the Vincennes Sectional and received a favorable draw Monday in this year's edition, but is that going to be enough for the Patriots to repeat?
The four-team affair has three county teams in it, but it's Washington that carries the favored tag. Rivet (6-6) avoided the Hatchets in Wednesday's opening round, drawing South Knox (4-16). It's Lincoln (11-7) that faces Washington first.
Both matches begin at 5 p.m. on the Alices' courts. The championship match is at 5 p.m. Thursday, with the winner advancing to the Jasper Regional.
The Patriots edged the Spartans, 3-2, in the regular season, but that was a deceiving score. Rivet didn't have any doubles players that day due to a schedule conflict with soccer. The Patriots don't have that problem this week.
Rivet coach Aaron Pea said it was the draw he wanted, for more reasons than one.
"I was going to be OK with it, either way, but the big positive is that with our sparse schedule coming into the sectional, it's good to get some rhythm under your belt," Pea said. "It's going to be good for our doubles players too. It's a good matchup for them, and it allows them to get some sectional experience."
The Patriots lineup is No. 1 junior Samuel Hinkle, No. 2 senior Noah Donavan and No. 3 junior Charlie Niehaus in singles, and No. 1 senior Grant Freeman-junior Peyton Catt and No. 2 juniors Luke Weiss-Peyton Mayles at doubles.
"Our form is good. We've gotten three matches in each of the past two weeks. Physically our soccer players should be hitting their stride, as far as recovery goes. We just need to believe and execute," Pea said.
It's the first match Rivet gets to play in Vincennes. The Patriots have played all away matches this season as their previous home, the Lawrenceville City Park, is not in good enough shape for play.
"That's going to mess up our routine," said Pea, only half joking. "I honestly might drive the bus over to Lincoln."
Washington owns a 3-2 win over Rivet and a 5-0 victory against Lincoln in the regular season. The Hatchets own a distinct doubles advantage over both city schools, but the singles matchups are a lot closer.
Alices first-year coach Bryce Crane noted that in the regular season one singles went three sets against Washington, two singles had a tiebreaker and three singles had a 7-5 set. He said that gives the team hope.
"It's going to be tough, but we know that and have a good idea of what to expect," Crane said. "We've grown a lot this season. We're a better team than we were even two weeks ago. If we play a good match, we definitely have a shot."
Lincoln's lineup is No. 1 sophomore Ethan Jones, No. 2 senior Dustin Altstadt and No. 3 sophomore David Wilson in singles, and No. 1 sophomore Landon Altstadt-junior Kyle Stenger and No. 2 sophomores Simon Corrona-Calvin Carmean in doubles.
Crane noted his team is in much-better shape than even last week.
"We were battling a lot of illness. Ethan was out, Landon had to retire mid-match, Kyle was sick and even I was sick," Crane said. "Even though we ended the regular season with a win, it wasn't our best form. We came to practice Monday and everybody was feeling good and striking the ball well. We all have to be clicking Wednesday if we want to have a shot."
The Spartans, in the second year of their program's rebirth, still have some growing to do. They made some good inroads this season under first-year coach Ryan Hayden, increasing their win total from zero to four.
South Knox's lineup Wednesday is No. 1 senior Nolan Hays, No. 2 sophomore Nathan Ruppel and No. 3 freshman Nathan Robbins at singles, and No. 1 juniors Caleb Cunningham-Tom Schmidt, and No. 2 junior Tom Schmidt-freshman Trevor Lough at doubles.