Marauders overcome slow start to handle Bulldogs

Tanner Caron watches doubles partner Gary Baker go up for a shot against Kingman High School. VVN/Travis Guy

Tanner Caron watches doubles partner Gary Baker go up for a shot against Kingman High School. VVN/Travis Guy

After suffering their first loss in section play and second overall, the No. 8 Mingus Marauders boys tennis team easily handled the short-handed Kingman Bulldogs 8-1 to notch their eighth win through ten games.

The hiccup against Prescott High School hurt. It not only affected the Marauders chances to win their section, but it was also a blow to their pride because the Badgers are a team they do not want to lose to. Head coach Tarrin Walz was happy to see his team rebound with a win and see the progress of the Marauders since they played Kingman in their second match of the season.

"The boys did a great job of getting their minds in the right place," Tarrin said. "We had a nice team meeting after the Prescott loss and then the kids wanted to [have] a players only meeting. They got together, ironed a few things out, came out and played much better today."

The Bulldogs showed up to Cottonwood with only five players, meaning that by the time they began the match the visitors were already down two points, a singles and a doubles match. Despite the lack of depth, the Bulldogs were able to capitalize on a slow start from the senior duo of Tanner Caron and Gary Baker and win the match 8-6.

"All through warm-ups and all through the first few games of our doubles, my head was totally out of it," Baker admitted. "I don't know what I was thinking about, wasn't really thinking about anything, but whatever it was it wasn't tennis. I was just kind of out of it and I think I wore off a little bit on Tanner, and kind of affected his head a little bit too and made him get out of his game. I think it was more me not focusing."

The other doubles match with Mingus Union's sophomore pairing of Turner Walz and Logan Conella easily breezed through their match 8-0, a foreshadowing of the younger Walz's upcoming singles match.

Turner and Conella were off the court before their teammates finished their match and Turner made his way to the court with his match. By the time the rest of the Marauders had begun their matches and points were scored, Turner was walking off his court with a fresh 6-0, 6-0 win.

Caron, Conella, Baker and senior Talon Walz followed suit with wins. Conella blanked his Bulldog in straight sets. Caron won his match 6-0, 6-2. Talon opened his singles match by dropping the first four points. His opponent, Patrick Chastain, has a conservative style of play. Chastain will stay in one spot, or area, and lob the balls back. He returns a lot of volleys and makes few errors, as Talon put it.

"Its difficult because he doesn't hit too many errors or hard shots," Talon said. "He makes me try and go for winners more, more than I'm comfortable with sometimes. So I just had to wait for my opportunity instead of just going for it right in the beginning. That's what I changed and it worked for me."

After Chastain was up 4-3, Talon made adjustments and held his foe scoreless the rest of the match. The older Walz went on a run and scored the final nine points to win his match 6-4, 6-0.

"I was very happy with what he did," Tarrin said. "I'm not sure what he did but I told him to go home and think about it, figure it out. I thought he really adapted his game well, never really got too down on himself, which I think helped him stay up on himself during the match."

Even though Baker has been having a successful doubles season with Caron, his singles season has left something to be desired. That is why his 6-0, 6-3 win was that much sweeter. Baker lost to his opponent at the beginning of the season, so the win showed how much he had improved in his final season as a Marauder.

"It seems like this year when I'm playing singles, I may be have one or two [set wins] against really good competition (I haven't really played that good in singles this year)," Baker said. "I lost to the guy I played today previously in the year and it was nice to comeback, take control and actually beat him."

The Marauder's are currently No. 9 in Division-II, with the Kingman win helping them make up lost ground following the Prescott loss. With a No. 3 ranking in Division-II, Section 3 and two matches left the Marauder's do not control their own destiny for a section championship. The first domino fell on April 15 when No. 6 Prescott lost to No. 18 Flagstaff. Now the Badgers have to beat No. 4 Bradshaw Mountain on April 21 and Mingus Union has to win out (at Flagstaff on April 17 and hosting Bradshaw April 22).

"Its actually great but our goal is not where we're ranked, our goal is to make it to state," Tarrin said. "That's our No. 1 goal. If the ranking helps us get there, that's great. We would still like to win our division, but we need some help with that now since we lost to Prescott."

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