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Jake Lipka, a member of La Salle-Peru’s No. 1 doubles team, returns the ball Saturday against Princeton during the Princeton Invitational. Lipka and his cousin, Trent, went 5-0 to help the Cavaliers to the team title. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
Mendota sophomore James Carroll (left) prepares to hit the ball as doubles partner Mark Prescott looks on during their match against Streator in the Princeton Invitational on Saturday. Carroll and Prescott placed third at No. 1 doubles and Mendota took third as a team with 14 points. NewsTribune photo/Genna Ord
PRINCETON — The La Salle-Peru boys tennis team wasn’t going to let a little cold weather get in the way of a repeat title Saturday at the Princeton Invitational.
The Cavaliers swept No. 1 and No. 2 doubles and scored another first-place finish from Reo Hammers in No. 1 singles to edge Dixon for the team title via a head-to-head tiebreaker on a chilly and often overcast day in Princeton that never saw temperatures rise past the mid 40s.
Playing in the cold weather is nothing new for the Cavs, who contested part of last week’s Lincoln-Way Central Invite in sleet.
In fact, L-P’s No. 1 doubles duo of cousins Jake and Trent Lipka — who advanced to 11-0 on the season with their five wins in the round-robin format tournament Saturday — said they preferred the cold and inclement weather that has been prevalent so far this season.
“I play better in the cold. I do feel like it does gives us an advantage. Personally, I don’t like to be hot when I’m playing. The hotter it is, honestly sometimes the worse I play,” said Trent Lipka, with Jake adding that both teammates were adept at using the elements and wind to their advantage on the court. “We play good all around, but we play better when it’s cold. Today was probably the best day we’ve had this year. We played by far the best today.”
Feeding off each other’s serves helped the duo continue their perfect season.
“Both of our serves were really working. We have very different serves. Jake hits a pretty hard slicer, and I hit a fairly slow kick serve. So it really keeps them off balance — and both of them were working today,” Trent Lipka said.
Hammers breezed through the No. 1 singles division, twice holding opponents scoreless and never dropping a set en route to his 5-0 finish for the day.
His toughest test came in his second round matchup with Mendota’s Cody Phalen, but the L-P senior was able to outlast the consistent Phalen for a 6-4, 6-3 victory.
“He kept the ball back in play really well. It’s hard to go against somebody who can do that. He played a good match” Hammers said of his match with Phalen, adding that the five-game round-robin format made for a long day on the courts. “I’m really tired and ready for a shower, but I played good today. The (round-robin) is alright, it gives you a lot of variety in the people you play, but it’s a lot of matches.
L-P’s No. 2 doubles duo of Drake Bruhns and Justin Burks had the distinction of sewing up the Cavs’ team title with the 120th and final match of the day to finish as they topped Dixon’s Max Bennon and Jon Brechon 7-6, 6-3 to finish their 5-0 day.
The win matched L-P and Dixon with 21 points apiece, and the Cavaliers took the tiebraker by virtue of winning 3-of-4 matches contested between the two teams.
Bruhns said that rough weather early this season helped condition the tandem for Saturday.
“After the last few tournaments we’ve had over the weekends, it wasn’t nearly as bad. Last weekend we played while it was sleeting,” Bruhns said.
The duo tried to limit opportunities for mistakes with some conservative play. “We just (trying to) keep it in play and not make our own mistakes — just make the points when they come to us,” Burks said.
L-P coach Sue McKnight said her squad, which also got a fourth-place finish in No. 2 singles from Alex Strickler, is fully acclimated to whatever rough weather Mother Nature has in store.
“That’s all we’ve played in, so they’re used to it by now. The only thing we didn’t have today was wind, which was a good thing. … They played very well today,” McKnight said.
Mendota was third with 14 points, including third-place finishes from No. 1 doubles duo James Carroll and Mark Prescott, Phalen and No. 2 singles player Joey Meyer.
The host Tigers were fourth with 13 points, paced by Zack Hicks’ second-place showing in No. 2 singles. Hicks won his first four matches of the day, including a three-set 4-6, 6-4, 10-3 win over Mendota’s Meyers, before falling 6-0, 6-2 to Dixon’s Matt Kerr, who finished first.
Streator finished fifth and St. Bede was sixth in the six-team round-robin format.
Chris Yucus can be reached at 220-6995 or at firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @NT_SportsEditor.
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