There were no complaints from the Morton or Pekin camps following the Pekin Invitational boys tennis tournament.
Morton was the dominant champion of the eight-team tournament played mostly at the John Moss Courts on April 13, winning three of the five flights and scoring 35 points.
Pekin’s inexperienced players experienced the thrill of a match victory a few times, enough for the Dragons to place sixth in the team standings.
Morton’s titles came from Kyle Braker at No. 1 singles, Zach Grimm at No. 2 singles and Barik Olden and Joe Zern at No. 1 doubles.
Connor Polk was third at No. 3 singles and Connor Loudermilk and Chase Yordy were second at No. 2 doubles.
“We played really well all day,” said Potters coach Pat Lowder.
Braker played especially well in an unfamiliar spot in the Morton lineup. The sophomore normally is at No. 2, No. 3 or No. 4 singles, but moves up to No. 1 for tournaments.
“We’re going to be graduating a lot of guys after this season, so I want Kyle to get some experience playing our opponent’s top player,” Lowder said.
A blind draw was held to fill the brackets for the Pekin tournament. Braker ended up facing his toughest foe, Jesse Dyer from Rock Island Alleman, in the first round and beat him 6-3, 2-6, 10-6.
Braker defeated Pekin’s Jayson Presley 6-3, 6-3 in the semifinals and Galesburg’s Lucas Shroyer 6-3, 6-0 in the finals. Braker had beaten Presley and Shroyer earlier this season.
Morton placed second in tournaments at Troy Triad and Metamora. Braker was 1-2 at Troy Triad and he finished fifth at Metamora playing No. 1 singles.
The Potters were 10-2 overall and 3-1 in the Mid-Illini Conference in dual matches through last week.
Lowder coached the Pekin boys tennis team for three years and girls tennis team for two years before going to Morton in 2015 to replace Pete Martin as boys and girls tennis coach.
He will step down from those coaching positions and as a physical education teacher at Jefferson Elementary School at the end of the school year.
The 2001 Morton grad and four-year tennis player at Western Illinois University said he wants to spend more time with his family -- his wife Jamie and four children ages 1 through 7 -- while pursuing other employment opportunities.
Pekin has had a tough season against tough opponents. The Dragons, with only six returning players on their 20-man roster, were 0-6, 0-4 in duals through last week, losing all of them 9-0.
That’s why their success at their own tournament was so important.
Presley led the way by finishing fourth at No. 1 singles.
Josh Brown was fifth at No. 3 singles, outlasting Alleman’s Matt Davis 6-1, 6-7 (5), 1-0 (7) in the match for fifth place.
Pekin’s No. 1 doubles team of Logan Carrington and Gavin Richardson and No. 2 doubles team of Ryan Bonnette and Jon Haller each placed sixth and Ben Peterson was seventh at No. 2 singles.
Carrington and Richardson were the top players on last year’s frosh-soph team.
“It was a morale boost to get some match wins. Our guys are tired of losing,” said first-year Pekin coach Josh Zinck. “You could tell that they were beginning to trust their shots.”
This is Zinck’s third season coaching in the Pekin tennis program. The Pekin P.E. and health teacher was the girls frosh-soph coach in fall 2016 and the boys frosh-soph coach in spring 2018.
Zinck didn’t play tennis when he was a student at Freeburg High School because Freeburg doesn’t have a tennis program.
Bill McCormick and Calvin Woodring are splitting Pekin’s assistant coaching duties this season.
Following Morton in the team standings at the Pekin tournament were Bloomington Central Catholic (24), Galesburg (23), Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (21), Alleman (19), Pekin (12), East Moline United Township (10) and Jacksonville (1).
Steve Stein can be reached at (248) 224-2616 or firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter @SpartanSteve.