First-year Bulldogs, Bearcats look to build on state tennis experiences
     2012-10-19      By Terry Gaston   
Photo by Elizabeth Gross/Gering Citizen Junior Bearcat Shane Mercer keeps his eye on the ball at a recent match at Gering. 
Scottsbluff boys’ tennis coach Ron Swank got to witness his first state tournament by a Bearcat entry in his two years at the SHS helm.

Perhaps Gering coach Matt Palomo can say the same next season after the first-year Bulldogs were all first-round victims in the Class B State tournament at the Nebraska Tennis Center in Lincoln.

Scottsbluff’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Traver Pettijohn and sophomore Sean Mercer-Smith scored the Bearcats’ first state victory in Swank’s two years and in several years beforehand.

Mercer-Smith and Pettijohn were dominant in scoring a 6-1, 6-2 victory over the College View Academy team of seniors Curtis Moseley and Tyler Mathews.

“We got points, so I am excited,” Swank said of the four points gained by Mercer-Smith and Pettijohn, which put the Bearcats in a seven-way tie for 18th place in the team standings.

In the second round, Mercer-Smith and Pettijohn were shut out 6-0, 6-0 by the No. 4 seeded Holdrege team of juniors Jared Karlson and Walker Hohensee, who eventually went on to win the No. 1 doubles state title without losing a set.

Swank said he wishes he had Pettijohn for another year.

“He has come a long way since last year; he couldn’t keep the ball in the court then,” said Swank, who deems the entire season a success from last year.

“Our new courts sure were a blessing,” he said. “We finished the season with 13 players and we had eight come out last year. We are making progress, and that’s all you can ask.

“It’s a good year when you have 10 people letter also, which means we had a lot of players get enough varsity matches in. We’ve got a lot of good experience across the board now.”

Scottsbluff junior No. 1 singles player Alex Harbach lost his first-round match to College View Academy sophomore Jonathan Deemer 6-2, 6-0. Deemer then lost his second-round match in straight sets.

In No. 2 singles, Scottsbluff sophomore Eric Olson lost 6-1, 6-0 to McCook senior Tristan Thomas in his opening match. Thomas was then taken out in the second round, able to muster just one second-set game victory.

Scottsbluff’s No. 2 doubles tandem of freshman Blake Wilberger and junior Logan Woodward lost 6-2, 6-1 to York sophomores Logan Cobb and Hayden Sandall. The York tandem then lost in the second round in straight sets.

Palomo, the longtime coach in the Gering Tennis Club, said he felt his transition to the high school circuit was good for both him and the Bulldog players.

“We wanted to keep keep our people challenged and reinforced, and that is what I thought they could do,” Palomo said of his 10-player team. “We got them to believe in what they can do and go out and execute it.”

Success for the Bulldogs in their first year at state will come in learning lessons, Palomo said, and he thinks the Gering players did well in that regard.

In No. 1 singles, Gering junior Brian Doll lost his first-round match to York senior Creighton Loreman, 6-1, 6-4. Loreman then lost his second-round match in straight sets to No. 2 seeded Adams Central senior Jordan Nash, who eventually finished fourth.

In No. 2 singles, Gering freshman Jason Doll lost his first-round match to the No. 9 seed, Adams Central senior Zane Nelson, 6-0, 6-1. Nelson advanced into the quarterfinals, where he lost in straight sets to eventual No. 2 singles champion Zahler Zandt, a sophomore from Elkhorn South.

Gering’s No. 1 doubles team of juniors Vincent Moreno and Anthony Ramirez were dealt a 6-0, 6-1 defeat to Elkhorn seniors Caden Bischof and Sawyer Nietfeld. Bischolf and Nietfeld met their fate in the second round in straight sets.

At No. 2 doubles, Gering junior Noah Miller and sophomore Alex Luphar were downed by Adams Central senior Grant Ostrander and junior Garrett Moller 7-6 (7-3), 6-2. The Central team then lost in straight sets in the second round.

“They weren’t intimidated by the atmosphere and the great competition they saw in Lincoln,” Palomo said. “They know they have a lot of work to do and they now know what it takes to get to that level.

“We had an incredible season from day one, and the character they reflected is such a building block,” he added. “Already we have several others interested in coming out next year, and the kids we had this year set their standards high.”

Elkhorn South, which swept the singles titles, finished second in No. 2 doubles and third in No. 1 doubles, scored 51 points to repeat as team champion. Omaha Skutt Catholic was second with 36-1/2 points and Lincoln Christian was third with 34.






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