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Two PHS tennis players place at regional tourney

Though it might not be evident from the overall standings, Powell High School’s tennis teams played some of their best matches of the year at this weekend’s north regional tournament.

“All but three people won matches, so that was good for a young team,” said PHS head coach Ray Bieber, adding that, “Just about every place along the way, we’re playing better.”

Two Powell players — girls No. 1 singles player BreaAnn Hollenbeck and boys No. 2 singles player Cody Akin — each made the consolation championship and finished fourth.

The boys team finished sixth among the eight squads with 14 points. Gillette won with 66 points, while Cody had 56 and Sheridan 36 to finish third.

The Lady Panthers finished seventh in the regional field with 13 points. Natrona County High School earned the regional title with 52 points, followed by Jackson’s 43 points and Gillette’s 41.

Boys No. 1 singles player Sam Prestwich lost to eventual second-place finisher Reed Ritterbusch of Sheridan, 6-1, 6-1, in his opening match. Prestwich then — in what Bieber called his best match of the year — came up just short against Jackson’s Chase Gerard, 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.

At No. 2 singles, Akin lost 6-1, 6-3 to Natrona County’s Mike Orcutt in his first match. In the consolation bracket, however, Akin bounced back with a 6-2, 6-0 thumping of Riverton’s Joey Rosseno. Akin then avenged a Sept. 13 loss to Cameron Ellis of Sheridan by winning 6-4, 4-6, 6-4. Orcutt again got the better of Akin in the third place match, 6-3, 6-0.

“Cody played really well; had a really good tournament, so we’re proud of him,” said Bieber, adding that Akin “played his best tennis of the year when it counted.”

Marshall McArthur and Justin Lynn opened play at No. 1 doubles by coming back to best Kelly Walsh 6-7, 7-5, 6-4. Cody, which finished second, denied Lynn and McArthur a trip to the championship match with a narrow 4-6, 6-3, 7-5 win.

“It was real close, within one or two points,” said Bieber.

In the consolation bracket, the PHS players lost 1-6, 6-4, 6-2 to Sheridan’s top doubles team, which went on to finish third.

At No. 2 doubles, Kalei Smith and Matt Brown lost 6-0, 6-1 to Cody (the second-place finishers), then turned around and beat Natrona County 1-6, 6-1, 6-2. Smith and Brown were then edged 6-4, 7-6 by fourth place finisher Kelly Walsh.

“They’re improving a lot and so we’re excited to see how they do (at state),” said Bieber, praising their play.

Sterling Cozzens and Jeffrey Pool, playing at third doubles, gave Cody a strong run for its money before falling 7-5, 6-4. Cody went on to finish second, while Cozzens and Pool beat Natrona County, 6-3, 0-6, 6-0. The PHS team then fell 6-1, 6-2 to Sheridan.

“We’re thinking that they’re going to have a decent shot to do well at state,” Bieber said.

On the girls side, Hollenbeck was edged by Nina Berlin of Jackon 6-4, 3-6, 7-5 in her opener, then beat Andrea Souza of Riverton 6-4, 6-4. Hollenbeck next got some revenge by coming back to beat Gillette’s Barb Griffin 1-6-, 6-4, 6-2; Griffin had beaten Hollenbeck just a week earlier.

The win earned Hollenbeck a rematch against Berlin and, for the third time this year, lost in split sets: 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.

“It’s getting closer and closer, but hasn’t quite gotten there,” Bieber said. “Hopefully, it will happen at state.”

At No. 2 singles, Cydney Barrus “had a tough draw,” Bieber said, losing 6-1, 6-4 to eventual second-place finisher Melissa Slaughter of Jackson and 6-3, 6-2 to Cody’s Taylor Blough.

Haley Wichman and Laura Bright, the Lady Panthers No. 1 doubles team, lost 6-2, 6-0 to Natrona County, then trumped Kelly Walsh 6-4, 6-1.

Wichman and Bright were then beat 6-1, 6-2 by Sheridan, the third-place finisher.

The inexperienced duo is “hanging in there really well with them (senior competition), so I’m proud of them, doing really well,” Bieber said.

At No. 2 doubles, Marisa Sanders and Savannah Harker lost 6-1, 6-1 to runners-up Kelly Walsh, then lost a 6-2, 6-3 decision to Sheridan.

“Hopefully, we’ll have a chance to win a match at state,” Bieber said.

Josie Brinkerhoff and Rachel Anderson got their regional tournament with a jolt, beating Kelly Walsh 6-3, 6-0. In the semi-finals, the girls lost 6-1, 6-1 to the Campbell County champions to drop to the consolation bracket. There, they lost a split set match to Sheridan, 6-3, 6-7, 6-2.

“They were right there,” said Bieber. “They could have a good state tournament.”

Powell will return to Gillette this week for state. Play begins Thursday.

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