Blackhawks tennis blazes through GNL competition

Tennis Axtell 5

The Cheney High boys’ tennis team continued its path to a second Great Northern League regular season title with wins over Pullman, 4-3, April 19, and West Valley, 6-1, April 21.

Ryan Axtell, No. 1 singles, came back to defeat Marcello Scudiero, 2-6, 6-2, 6-4. After Axtell dropped the first set, head coach Jesse Erickson suggested he “be a little more patient” and “let his opponent’s shots come to him.”

“In those second and third sets, Ryan picked his moments and capitalized when he had an opening,” Erickson said.

Mason Van Stone, No. 2, defeated Jake Pru (6-1, 6-2) and Shogo Starr, No. 4, won his match against Sam Lindstrom (6-3, 6-0).

“Mason has been super aggressive, and he’s been working on attacking the net and putting the ball away,” Erickson said. “Shogo was solid for us once again.”

Dirk Ray and Alex Chernega, No. 3 doubles, capped the winning point for Cheney after they won a close match against Dalton Bankhead and Quinn Bankhead, 7-5, 6-7 (7-9 tiebreaker), 7-6 (8-6 tiebreaker). Chernega scored the winning point after he hit the ball with a strong forehand shot.

Erickson, who called the Pullman match “the most intense one” he’s been a part of, “commended both Ray and Chernega for playing so well under a lot of pressure.”

“They passed the test with flying colors,” he added.

Erickson called the West Valley match a “more a decisive win” for Cheney.

No. 1 Axtell defeated Spencer Glass (6-1, 6-2) while Van Stone, No. 2, shut out Troy Cleaver (6-0, 6-0). Brandon Foster, No. 3, rebounded from his loss at Pullman to defeat Dylan Almeida (6-1, 6-2) while No. 4 Starr kept his undefeated season alive after his win over Hunter Dean (6-1, 6-0).

In doubles, No. 2 Hayden Bennett and Aaron Fillmore defeated Jake Boles and Collin Boucher (6-0, 6-1). No. 3 Chernega and Dixon Gerber, playing together in their first match, won a close match against Nick Crane and Matteo Nunziatti (6-3, 7-5).

“Alex came out with some big serves in that match,” Erickson said. “It was also Dixon’s first varsity match. They hadn’t played together before but they were communicating well and that was good to see.”

The Blackhawks (4-0 GNL, 10-0 overall) begin the second round of GNL play today (April 28) at home against fourth-place East Valley (0-2, 1-5). They’ll compete in the Inland Empire Tournament (location to be determined), April 29-30, then travel to Clarkston to play the second-place Bantams (2-1, 2-1), May 3.

“I couldn’t be happier with how my guys are playing,” Erickson said. “We’ve come though on the close matches. When our singles struggle, our doubles step up and vice versa. It shows how cohesive we are as a unit.”

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