The RHS varsity tennis team after the Elliot Pearce Invitational . ~ Contributed Photo
Returning the core of last year’s team in seniors Ryan Blackburn, Nate Boer, Matthew Hall, Will Lewis, and juniors TJ Maskell, Will Van Eck, and Caleb Werdon, the Rams thought they were searching for five new players to step into the varsity team. However, the OK Red Conference added a 5th doubles flight this year increasing the search to seven new varsity players.
Fortunately for the Rams, a record number of 65 boys showed up for tryouts on the morning of, Wednesday, Aug. 8. After three days of intense competition the Rams added seniors Caleb Keely and Arthur Ma, Junior Logan Lewandowski, sophomores Kent Burns and Jake Osborn, and freshmen Ben Lewis and Xander Werdon to the varsity team.
The Ram tennis program has become accustomed to starting the year by competing against some of the best teams in the state, and this year was no different. The Rams traveled to Novi just a week after try outs, Wednesday, Aug. 15, to take on perennial Division 1 MHSAA State qualifiers Novi, Clarkston, and Grand Blanc.
Seniors Ryan Blackburn and Matthew Hall set the pace for the Rams winning their flight at 1st Doubles with a come-from-behind win over Novi. After losing a close first set 5-7, the Ram team raised their game to win the second set 6-3 and even the match. A 10-point tie-breaker was then played to decide the match. The tie-breaker was tight early on, but the Rams surged ahead 8–5. Novi dug in and battled back to 8-8 before the Rams won a crucial point to move ahead 9-8 with a chance to serve out the match. A big first serve down the middle forced a return error by Novi giving the Rams the win. The Rams doubles teams were very competitive on the day with finalist finishes at 2nd doubles by senior Nate Boer and junior Caleb Werdon and 3rd doubles by junior Logan Lewandowski and freshman Ben Lewis.
On Monday, Aug. 20, the Rams competed at Forest Hills Central in the Elliot Pearce Invitational against State qualifiers from Divisions 2 and 3. The Rams continued their competitive play and finished the day in second place just one point behind Troy (another Division 1 State qualifier). Closing out the day, Ram Senior Will Lewis won the flight championship at 3rd singles over his Troy opponent. Will battled long and hard for every point in the final and turned the match into a physical endurance challenge. With very heavy legs that were showing signs of cramping the player from Troy was not able to hold up. Will wore his opponent down in a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
The Rams won a flight championship at 1st doubles when Matthew Hall and Ryan Blackburn defeated a team from Parma Western 6-2, 6-2 in the final. Flight finalists for the Rams were the 2nd doubles team of Nate Boer and Caleb Werdon and the 5th doubles team of Arthur Ma and Jake Osborn. Junior TJ Maskell picked up a nice win over conference opponent West Ottawa in the third place match of the 1st singles flight.
Continuing to embrace competition, the Rams competed in a double dual match with Forest Hills Northern and East Grand Rapids, Thursday, Aug. 23. The 1st doubles team of Blackburn and Hall picked up wins over both teams improving their record to 8 -0. Caleb Keely picked up a win at 4th singles over East Grand Rapids, and the doubles teams of Kent Burns and Xander Werdon (4th doubles) and Arthur Ma and Jake Osborn (5th doubles) picked up wins over Forest Hills Northern.
The Rams have home matches on Monday, Aug. 27, against East Lansing, and Thursday, Aug. 30, against East Grand Rapids. So, come on out to the courts this fall to see some great tennis played by all of the Ram teams.