Patriots fall short in final

Staff photo by Tom Graham

Rivet’s No. 2 singles Noah Donovan watches his backhand shot against Washington in the Vincennes Sectional championship match Thursday at the Lincoln courts.

Rivet’s boys tennis team had favored Washington in trouble in the Vincennes Sectional championship match Thursday.

The Hatchets (16-7) had a 2-1 lead, but No. 1 singles Samuel Hinkle was two games away from forcing a third set, while No. 2 singles Noah Donovan was playing with a set lead.

But Rivet’s momentum was blown away like the recent heat wave. Washington’s No. 1 Zachary Gray took the next five game to oust Hinkle, 6-1, 6-4, giving the Hatchets the clinching third point on their way to a 4-1 victory.

It was the fifth sectional championship this decade for Washington, denying the Patriots (7-7) an attempt to defend their title.

“It was a good effort, but it’s never a question of effort in a sectional final. The boys also did a good job of being mentally prepared for this,” Rivet coach Aaron Pea said. “Sam got a little out of sorts in that second set. The Washington player is a solid player, and he started bull-rushing the net. The match changed just like that.

“I could have prepared him better for that.”

The Patriots got their point from No. 3 singles Charlie Niehaus, who dismantled Drake Harman, 6-1, 6-1. Donovan nearly gave Rivet a second point, but Braden Kixmiller of the Hatchets rallied for a 4-6, 6-3, 1-0 (12-10) victory.

“Charlie followed his game plan well. I could tell Noah was locked in and wanted to make his match a senior moment,” Pea said. “I would like to think that he wins that match if we didn’t get eliminated earlier.”

Washington’s doubles got the other two wins. No. 1 Owen Gray-Austin Gere took out Peyton Catt-Grant Freeman, 6-1, 6-3; and No. 2 Jacob Rice-Jaylyn Rook blanked Peyton Mayles-Luke Weiss, 6-0, 6-0.

Donovan and Freeman are the team’s only seniors. The Patriots got to play their sectional matches in Vincennes, but the first 12 were all on the road as they have no home courts. They practice at the Lawrenceville (Ill.) City Park, but those courts aren’t suitable for matches.

Despite the rough road, Pea enjoyed the year.

“We didn’t play a lot of matches, but it was a fun season, with a good group of kids,” Pea said. “They got along with each other well.”

Washington advances to the Jasper Regional next Tuesday, where it plays the North Daviess Sectional winner.

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