That was the mindset of the Abilene High School and Junction City High School boys’ tennis teams Thursday afternoon when the two squads locked horns in a varsity dual match.
Junction City gained from the match due to the fact that over the years Abilene, even though it is a smaller school than the Blue Jays, produces state-ranked teams. The Cowboys are not currently ranked in 4A according to the Kansas Tennis Coaches Association, but through the years Abilene generally produces one of the top tennis teams in the state.
"I think our guys are playing their better tennis," Junction City coach Matt Michel said. "I think the more tennis they play like this they will improve throughout the year. Overall when I look at how my guys played there is little to be frustrated with. We have a lot of youth and a lot freshman and this is the toughest team they have played with by now and they hung with them in points and games so frustrated wouldn’t describe anything today."
Abilene, meanwhile, gained from the dual because it is only a 4A school while Junction City is a 6A school.
"We wanted to see how we stacked up against a team with some quality players like Junction City," Abilene coach Garry Stredney said. "We really got tested today."
The Cowboys jumped out to an early lead in the dual as they won all three of the doubles matches that were competed on the day. Junction City only had three doubles teams so the normal set of four doubles matches was not available.
Two of the three doubles matches were close as two of the matches needed tie-breakers to determine the ultimate winner.
Abilene’s Kaynan Anderson and Connor Kijowski teamed up to defeat Junction City’s Alex Fells and Sean Skinner 7-6 (7-5), 6-1 in the No. 1 doubles match.
"We started off in doubles and our one doubles was losing in the first set 4-1 and they came back which shows we have a quality No. 1 doubles team," Stredney said. "Then they won the next set 6-1, so they played well but they were really pushed to the limit in that first set.
"Then our 2 doubles, Ben and Trey, they played the best they have all year, but they had to because they were playing two quality kids from Junction City."
Abilene’s Ben Weissenbach and Trey Jackson teamed up at No. 2 doubles to defeat Junction City’s Gary Davis and Shelby Moffitt 4-6, 6-4, (10-7). In the third doubles match Abilene’s Matt Barlow and Billy Yeager teamed up to defeat Junction City’s Casey Zimmerman and Kyle Hand 6-1, 6-0.
The Cowboys outscored Junction City 7-1 in the singles competition with Junction City’s lone win coming from Zimmerman, who defeated Weissenbach 6-1, 6-1.
"Our guys played hard, Abilene was just the better team today," Micheel said. "They won crucial points at the right time."
Barlow defeated Davis 6-0, 6-0, Anderson beat Fells 6-4, 6-3, Kijowski topped Skinner 6-4, 6-3, Yeager beat Kyle Hand 6-2, 6-1, Trey Jackson beat Moffitt 6-4, 6-2, Gabe Johnson topped Neil Glasser 6-4, 6-1 and Jordan Luty beat Glasser 6-3, 2-6, 10-8.
"This should help our confidence the rest of the year," Stredney said. "Practice is one thing … but when you are actually competing hard for every point, which we had to, Junction is a good 6A school, they have quality players, we are winning the big points. That has to really help our confidence. You can tell players to play with confidence, but that doesn’t really help their confidence. They have to hit the shots, win the big points, hit serves that are quality serves, that is what helps your confidence. I really feel like we got a lot out of today."