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Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Broncos Defeat Patriots 5-2 for Boys USTA National Spring Team Title; Girls Final Interrupted by Rain with Stingrays Leading Bengals 3-1

left to right, Speicher, Krug, Rogers, Minton, Cacciatore, Groetsch, Smith
©Colette Lewis 2017--
Mobile, AL--

Although the first two days of the USTA National Spring Team Championships were rain-free, the good weather had run its course by Tuesday.  A morning rain shower set the boys final back two hours, but the Broncos were able to defeat the Patriots 5-2 for the title. The girls final was suspended by another storm late Tuesday afternoon, with the Stingrays leading the Bengals 3-1.

The Broncos' semifinal win Monday night over the Falcons had been decided by the doubles point, with those three matches played after the teams had split the six singles contests.

In Tuesday's final, the format returned to the standard of doubles first, and the Broncos again grabbed that point.  The Broncos took the 14s doubles, with Connor Krug and Isaac Smith beating Baylor Sai and Jake Krug, Connor's twin brother, 6-3.  The Patriots responded by taking the 18s doubles, with Kevin Zhu and Randy Cory taking out John Speicher and Andrew Rogers 6-4.  So the point came down to 16s doubles, and as they had done against the Falcons Monday night, Broncos Harry Cacciatore and Cole Groetsch clinched the point, beating Leighton Allen and Nicholas Garcia 6-4.

The Broncos came out strong in singles, earning four first sets, to just two for the Patriots.  Rogers gave the Broncos their second point, taking the match at the 18s line 2 over Cory 6-3, 6-4. Five minutes later, Smith made it 3-0, beating Jake Krug 7-5, 6-4 at the 14s line 2.

The Patriots needed to force a third set in two matches still in progress, and they looked to be doing that at the 14s line 1, with Sai up a break in the second set against Connor Krug, but Krug fought back, forced a tiebreaker and went on to clinch the championship with a 6-1, 7-6(6) victory.

"He saved a bunch of set points there, and that was a huge match," said Broncos coach Bryan Minton.

Just minutes after Krug had clinched, Groetsch closed out Garcia 6-4, 6-3 at the 16s line 2 to make it 5-0.  Although Allen gave the Patriots a point with a 7-5, 6-4 win over Cacciatore at the 16s line 1, and Zhu got his eighth win of the tournament against no losses with a 7-5, 5-7, 6-2 victory over Speicher at 18s line 1 to make the final score 5-2, Patriots coach Matthew Boughton acknowledged the great performance by the Broncos.

"We had our opportunities in the 14s singles, but couldn't close out the match," said Boughton, who has coached a team all four years the tournament has been held, but was making his first appearance in the finals. "But a lot of credit goes to the other team. They're a good team. My guys fought, but 5-2, that's a tough one."

Minton didn't need much prompting to name a most valuable player on his team.

"Harry Cacciatore was my MVP," said Minton, who made his tournament debut this year. "I already told him that. He lost his singles match today, but he pulled out so many tough matches for us along the way. His team spirit was amazing, he was always the one to count us down, he had great energy, great focus, and I just believed in him.  I believed in the whole team, every one of the guys was amazing, but Harry really stood out. He was cheering for everyone else in the middle of some of his own big battles."

Like Minton, Cacciatore had never participated in the tournament before.

"I actually didn't get my national ranking up until like last year," said the 16-year-old high school junior from Gainesville Florida. "It was a great experience, and I'll for sure play next year."

Cacciatore said his limited exposure to team events made the tournament special for him and he welcomed the opportunity to see what may await him in college.

"I think college will be like this a little bit, the way they did the doubles, so it was awesome experience to get a taste of that, and I can't wait to be back next year," Cacciatore said.

As for winning a title in his first year, Cacciatore was aware of his good fortune.

"I think I just got lucky with a good team, and we just had the best chemistry on the court," Cacciatore said.

Minton, who is also looking forward to returning next year, agreed.

"The team spirit was just huge," Minton said. "I think that's probably what helped us more than anything else, just the camaraderie that the boys had, how they cheered for each other and kept the energy up. It was a blast."

In the third place match, the Rams defeated the Falcons 4-3, with Chase Wood clinching the match at the 18s line 1 with a 7-6(3), 6-4 win over Beau Pelletier.

The boys tournament sportsmanship award went to Malachi Coleman of the Saints.

The girls final between the Stingrays and the Bengals began around 2:45 p.m., and the sun burst through the gloom occasionally early in the afternoon, but clouds thickened and darkened as the girls moved into the late stages of their singles matches, and once rain began to fall around 4:45 p.m, play was suspended until Wednesday morning.

The Stingrays had taken the doubles point, getting wins at 18s and 16s.  Kolie Allen and Catherine Gulihur defeated the Bengals Jennifer Kerr and Sydney Jones 6-2 in the 18s, with Carmen Corley and Casey Accola clinching it by beating Carly Briggs and Kelsey Mize 6-3 in the 16s.  Mary Grace Armistead and Daniella Benabraham took the 14s doubles with a 6-3 win over Eleana Yu and Rebecca Lynn.

Gulihur defeated Jones at the 18s line 2 6-1, 6-1 to make it 2-0 Stingrays, with Mize then putting the Bengals on the board with a 6-2, 6-2 decision over Accola at the 16s line 2.  Lynn defeated Benabraham 6-0, 6-1 at the 14s line 2 to make it 3-1 Stingrays. Shortly after Lynn's victory, rain stopped play.  Corley was up 7-5, 3-4 against Briggs at the 16s line 1, and if she holds on, she could clinch for the Stingrays. Kerr and Armistead had taken the first sets at the 18s line 1 and the 14s line 1 for the Bengals, with their matches early in the second set.

Play is scheduled to be resumed at 9:30 a.m. on Wednesday.  In addition to the final and third place matches, six other matches were still in progress and will also be resumed Wednesday.

Complete results from the boys tournament can be found at the TennisLink site.

BOYS FINAL:  Broncos 5, Patriots 2

1. 18s: Kevin Zhu and Randy Cory(Patriots) d. John Speicher and Andrew Rogers(Broncos) 6-4
2. 16s: Harry Cacciatore and Cole Groetsch(Broncos) d. Leighton Allen and Nicholas Garcia(Patriots) 6-4
3. 14s: Conner Krug and Isaac Smith(Broncos) d. Baylor Sai and Jake Krug(Patriots) 6-3

1. Kevin Zhu(Patriots) d. John Speicher(Broncos) 7-5, 5-7, 6-2
2. Andrew Rogers(Broncos) d. Randy Cory(Patriots) 6-3, 6-4
3. Leighton Allen(Patriots) d. Harry Cacciatore(Broncos) 7-5, 6-4
4. Cole Groetsch(Broncos) d. Nicolas Garcia(Patriots) 6-4, 6-3
5. Conner Krug(Broncos) d. Baylor Sai(Patriots) 6-1, 7-6(6)
6. Isaac Smith(Broncos) d. Jake Krug(Patriots) 7-5, 6-4

Order of finish:
Doubles 3, 1, 2*
Singles 2, 6, 5* 4, 3, 1

*clinching match