VEEDERSBURG, Ind. – Kody Keeling knew his tennis match against Borden Kennedy for the Wabash River Conference singles title would be tough.
Sure, Keeling was on an 18-game winning streak for Fountain Central at No. 1 singles while Kennedy had played No. 2 singles for Seeger this season, but Keeling remembered last year.
“I was a three and I got All-Conference by beating two No. 1s, so I knew it would be tough,” he said. “When you get here you just have to play each match as it comes.”
Keeling came out on top by a score of 6-2 and 6-1 but the points were hard to come by.
“Borden played well,” said the champion. “It was great to play him – he’s a good guy and tough. We had a lot of long points and I had to be really patient to try to win them.”
Many of the points had volleys that were 25 or 30 long. The duo would take turns attacking or playing a defensive lob until the other finally made a mistake.
Kennedy said he enjoyed the match, saying he thought both players gave it their all. When he started the tournament, he said his goal was to make All-Conference.
“Once I got that, I said I’d just see what happens,” he explained. “We both played well, but Kody played just a little better than I did.”
Kennedy had reached the finals by defeating teammate Addison Martin 3-6, 7-6 (1), 6-2 in the semifinals while Keeling made it to the championship with a 6-0, 6-3 win over Lucas Rowe of Rockville.
In the doubles final, it was two Fountain Central teams playing for the title.
Doug Keeling and Ladd Warner were the top seeds coming into the tournament but they faced unseeded Dalton Griffin and Dallas Otero in the championship match.
Keeling and Warner had defeated Amit Shah and Brendan Woolwine of Covington 6-2, 6-0 to reach the final while Griffin and Otero had taken down Nick McGowen and Josh Orahood of Seeger 7-6 (2) and 6-3.
“It really seemed like just another practice,” said Warner about the match. And Keeling chipped in, “Yeah, we’ve played them about 34½ times.”
The match went to Keeling and Warner as their respective positions on the Mustang team hinted that it might, but the two said their teammates played well.
One reason that the score came out the way it did was the serving of Warner. The 6-foot-7 player has a powerful serve but he said he tried something else and it began to work for him.
“I was putting spin on my serves,” he explained. “I hadn’t really done that all year, but it was working tonight so I kept doing it.”
That type of serve meant his opponent would lunge for the ball, often hitting it weakly or missing it entirely.
“I’m not going to give up on my power serve,” said Warner, “but now that this is working, I’m going to do both.”
While Warner was serving and often playing at the back, Doug Keeling was up at the net. At times he was joined their by Warner.
“It sends an aggressive message to our opponents,” said Keeling. “They don’t expect both of us up there and they don’t know how to react.”
Regardless of who is up and who is back for the two, one thing they have to do is work together.
Doug Keeling said he had played doubles since his freshman year and had no problems doing so again, but Warner had to learn how to be a partner.
“We didn’t start the season out in doubles, but after a few matches they put us together,” said Keeling.
Warner added, “But we really didn’t relax and begin to trust each other until the Western Boone tournament. We played three matches and I think that’s when we started playing well.”
Next up for the Wabash River Conference teams is the IHSAA Sectional Tournament, which will start on Wednesday at Fountain Central.
In the first match, the Fountain Central Mustangs will play the Seeger Patriots, with that winner facing Attica on Thursday. In the other semifinal match on Thursday, which will be played at Covington, Benton Central will face the Trojans. Those winners will play each other for the Sectional Championship on Friday at Fountain Central.
Greg Flint is a freelance writer/photographer for the Commercial-News. He can be reached at email@example.com