Once again the race for the Upstate Eight Conference River Division boys tennis title was a dogfight right down to the end and once again for the third straight year the Batavia Bulldogs rallied from behind to pull it out at the wire.
Heading into the conference tournament hosted by Geneva on Saturday, the Bulldogs trailed St. Charles East by 2 points and St. Charles North by 1 point in the standings. However, with big wins from No. 3 doubles Emerson Hinzy and Andrew Nelson, No. 1 doubles Adam Maris and Ryan Sterling, and No. 3 singles James Carr, Batavia was able to edge St. Charles East 67-66 in the final point standings. St. Charles North finished third with 65 points.
"First and foremost our guys never stopped believing in themselves," Batavia coach Brad Nelson said. "We had lost to both East and North in dual meets during the regular season. But we felt like we had seen their best and we felt like our best was yet to come and that was the case today. We played the best tennis we have played all season."
Nelson and Hinzy, both sophomores and seeded third, pulled off the biggest upset of the day by knocking off second-seeded East and top-seeded North both in three sets. Nelson and Hinzy rallied from behind to defeat the North Stars team of Brady Goldsworthy and Peter O'Brien 6-7, 6-4, 6-2 in the title match.
"They had gone three sets with both of those teams during the regular season," Nelson said. "So we felt they were right there with them. Today they took the next step forward. It was a proud moment not only as a coach but with Andrew being my son it was also a proud moment as a dad."
Maris and Sterling, seeded second in No. 1 doubles, upset the top-seeded team of Grant Spellman and Aaron Amburgey from St. Charles North 6-3, 6-3 in the championship match.
"They got beat pretty good by that team during the regular season, " Nelson said. "But (Maris and Sterling) are very smart players. They are great at making adjustments and figuring out a strategy. Today they were returning shots down the lines and that kind of took away the middle from North. It's been an outstanding year for them and it was nice to see them get the win today."
Third-seeded Carr, a junior, also had to knock off the top two seeds from North and East to win the No. 3 singles title. Carr beat the Saints' Nick Stellon 7-5, 6-7, 6-2 in the championship match.
"He just keeps getting better and better every match," Nelson said. "He lost to both of those kids during the regular season, but he has worked really hard. And he has such great athleticism and energy."
For the Saints, No. 1 singles Jasper Koenen remained undefeated with a 6-1, 6-0 win over Matt Ernst from St. Charles North in the semis and a 6-0, 6-1 win against Batavia's Tim Murat in the finals.
The Saints' No. 4 doubles team of Stefan Cvarkovic and Christopher Horn also took first.
St. Charles North had first-place finishes by No. 2 singles Matt Kramer and No. 2 doubles Mitch Riggs and Keith Hedges.