Gering netters outlast Scottsbluff
     2012-10-01      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Elizabeth Gross/Gering Citizen Sophomore Bulldog Jason Doll hustles for a return volley Tuesday during a match against Scottsbluff’s Eric Olsen. Doll defeated Olsen 7-5, 6-1. 
While their teammates stood back and watched while eating pizza and sharing a few laughs following their own matches, the No. 1 doubles teams from Gering and Scottsbluff slugged their way into the dusk Tuesday in a three-set match that would decide the first dual between the Bulldogs and Bearcats in boys’ tennis.

As the match between the natural archrivals neared its conclusion, the players in waiting moved down to get a closer look at the action on Court 3 of the Gering High School tennis complex.

Finally, when the Gering duo of Noah Miller and Alex Lupher shared a handshake and a hug in celebrating their 6-7, 6-3, 7-5 comeback win over Scottsbluff’s Traver Pettijohn and Sean Mercer-Smith, their Bulldog teammates and coach Matt Palomo celebrated the resulting 3-2 dual victory for Gering.

The match broke a 2-all deadlock in the triangular’s final dual of the day. Alliance had not given up more than three games in any set in sweeping Gering and Scottsbluff 4-0 — No. 3 doubles matches were not played in those duals, like the Bearcats and Bulldogs did.

The Twin City teams split the singles matches, with Scottsbluff No. 1 Xavian Perez topping Gering’s Brian Doll 7-5, 6-2 and Gering No. 2 Jason Doll defeating Bearcat Eric Olsen 7-5, 6-1.

No. 2 doubles went to Gering’s tandem of Anthony Ramirez and Vince Moreno, 6-2, 6-4 over Logan Woodward and Blake Wilberger. The Bearcats took No. 3 doubles, with Owen Parra and Court Muhr beating Jarrin Rasnic and Dan Olmstead 6-3, 6-1.

“It was a very good competition,” Palomo said. “It’s pretty fair and even with us and Scottsbluff, and we couldn’t have asked more from both teams and the way they played. And with the energy, it’s just great.“

Palomo tipped his hat to Alliance, which has five seniors among its six varsity players.

“They have a very good team, they develop it over the years, they are just very well-coached,” he said. “A lot of hard work done over the years shows. They should do pretty good at state.”

While Gering might have outlasted Scottsbluff on Tuesday night, both Palomo and Scottsbluff coach Ron Swank are most pleased with the camaraderie that has developed between the two teams.

On many occasions, the students have been classmates when they have transferred between the schools, or they have played summer tennis together or been comrades in other activities such as Boy Scouts — in which Palomo is Muir’s scoutmaster for Gering Troop 17.

“There’s a very good bond between Coach Swank and myself,” Palomo said. “We are good friends and play club tennis together, have for 30 years now.

“And then to have our kids mingle the way they do with each other outside the court when we have played this year, it’s great. It’s good for the community, it’s good for them and it’s great fellowship.”

“It’s a lot of fun to watch,” Swank said, “because they will be over on the break together, telling jokes or something. They’re serious, but they’re still friends and it’s really great to see.”

Swank is in his second year of coaching the Bearcat boys but his first with the new tennis courts at Scottsbluff High School.

“This team is a little more competitive,” he said. “We were hurting for years because we didn’t have courts, and it’s hard to build any kind of players when you don’t have courts.

“We had eight out last year and we have 13 out this year, and we’ll have more out next year. The more people you can get out the better, and the more you can get them to play in the summertime the better you’ll be. It just takes practice and practice and practice.”

Palomo has 10 players on Gering’s first boys’ tennis team, which gaining the school program was a longtime hope of his.

“We’ve accomplished our goal and we’re still working at it,” Palomo said. “The kids are improving and I can ask for nothing more.”

Gering‘s schedule is finished until the Class B State Tournament, which will be Oct. 11-12 at the Nebraska Tennis Center in Lincoln.

Scottsbluff still has pre-state action, traveling to Norfolk for the Greater Nebraska Athletic Conference Tournament on Saturday and by playing host to McCook in a dual on Tuesday at 3:30 p.m.

“Tennis is looking up out here,” Swank said. “Our goal is we want to go down east in the next two or three years and make some noise. Right now we’re the laughingstocks at the invites, but we’ll get our laughs in. It takes time to build it, and we’re getting there.”
And it looks like the coaches are willing to build those successes, together, to carry the banner for western Nebraska.

“I’ll cheer for them all the time when they are not playing us,” Palomo said. “It’s great. I like the kids, and the coach, of course.”

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