EATON — An unusually harsh combination of wind and cold in mid-April set the stage for Eaton tennis’ 5-0 loss to Bellbrook on Thursday, April 15.
The Golden Eagles dominated the SWBL last time around with a 7-0 record in the conference alongside an 18-4 overall record in 2019.
“Bellbrook was just too strong, too deep for what we had,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said. “Everybody played well, the way they hit the ball. I thought they held their own extremely well considering the competition.”
With the loss, the Eagles fell to 3-3 on the season.
Earlier in the season, Eaton kicked things off with a 5-0 win over Dixie on Monday, April 5.
“Kids played well, came out strong,” Eaton coach John Hitchcock said. “Fought hard.”
That match was followed by a 5-0 loss to Chaminade Julienne on Wednesday, April 7.
“It was a little stronger. Closer you get to Dayton, the better the schools tend to get,” Hitchcock said. “They played hard, but obviously the tennis was improved there. Our first doubles actually had a solid match with CJ, they took them three sets and had some opportunities there to possibly pull that out. So, they were extremely competitive with them.”
After the loss to CJ, Eaton was scheduled to face Oakwood, but the match was rained out in the early stages.
“We got started with Oakwood, got rained out, but got deep enough in to know that that’s going to be a tough out very, similar to [our match against Bellbrook],” Hitchcock said. “They’re actually slightly improved, even for a boys Oakwood team. They have some really nice depth. I’d say it’s going to be them and Bellbrook, kind of contending for the league.”
Eaton bounced back the next week with a 4-1 win against West Carrolton on Monday, April 12, and a 3-2 over Monroe on Tuesday, April 13, in the Eagles first league match of the season.
“That was a very, very competitive match,” Hitchcock said. “We knew their first doubles team was very strong. Actually, it’s their best two players playing in that spot, so they won that court, and then we had Henry, Charles win fairly easily at first and second singles.”
After a loss from Eaton’s second doubles team, tied 2-2 overall, the match rested on the shoulders of senior Kendale Hamilton, who embarked on a three-set, two-and-a-half hour match to pull off the victory for the Eagles.
“Kendale Hamilton had to really battle, had almost a two-and-a-half hour match,” Hitchcock said. “Two out of three sets there, had to go a full three with a tiebreaker in the second set that he had to win 11-9. He dropped the first set, so that was a really gutty outcome back.”
Following Thursday’s loss to Bellbrook, the Eagles fell 5-0 to Miami Valley School on Friday, April 16, bringing their record to 3-3 (1-1 SWBL).
Due to 2020 being a lost year, Hitchcock said the Eagles are still trying to learn some of the fundamentals through the early part of the season.
“It’s a good group to work with, they’re all intelligent kids, they all academically do well, so they can actually put that to use on the court,” he said. “You can kind of see that happening or even when you go to talk to them during a changeover, they’ll come up and kinda even give you an assessment of what they’re doing, what they could be doing better. That’s been a little unique, a little different this year. They’re just willing and able to kind of push themselves and learn.”
While Eaton has had some struggles, their coach says it isn’t an isolated issue, as most programs are dealing with extreme turnover and a challenging learning curve for new players.
“Just across the board, you know, everybody’s just really trying to get their sea legs/tennis legs,” he said.
Eaton will play five matches in as many days this week, scheduled to take on Carlisle on Monday, April 19, followed by Franklin, Centerville and Valley View before finishing the week at Dayton Christian on Friday, April 23.
Reach Braden Moles at 937-683-4056 or on Twitter @BradenMoles