PEORIA — It was an Irish sweep for the top junior players in the 50th Tri-County Tennis Tournament at Markin Courts on Thursday afternoon.
Top-seeded Joshua Montefolka, who will be a junior at Notre Dame next season, claimed the Boys 18 singles title with a 6-4, 6-3 decision over Dunlap’s Arian Rahbar.
In the Girls 18 singles, Maria Coulter, who will be an ND senior next season, beat Dunlap player Katie San Jose, 6-1, 6-1, in the finals at Bradley.
In the Boys 18 title match, both players had trouble holding serve in the first set, which opened with four straight service breaks.
Rahbar selected to receive to open the match.
"Arian made a nice pick so that every time I would serve, I’d have the sun in my eyes," Montefolka said. "So it was very hard to serve.
"Then when I got ahead, I started getting more aggressive, and started saying, ‘Come on!’ more, trying to pump myself up."
Montefolka held in Game 5 for a 3-2 lead and eventually served for the set.
Rahbar, the No. 2 seed, had a service break to open the second set, but could only hold serve twice.
"He basically just held his serve more than I did," Rahbar said of Montefolka. "When I held, I was moving him around."
In the final game of the match, Montefolka survived two break points before putting the match away with a passing shot down the line.
"I’ve played Arian a couple of times ,and he’s very good at getting balls that you don’t expect, and getting perfect angle shots," Montefolka said. "He’s good at dropping it low and getting good angles, so that you really have to run to hit the ball. Even when you do hit the ball, you wouldn’t really hit anything good back.
"I think I got lucky a couple of balls, because I didn’t think he expected me to get them back. But it was very close. When I play Arian, it usually comes down to endurance. So I think I just got a couple of lucky shots."
For Coulter, winning the Girls 18 was an improvement from a pair of runner-up finishes a year ago. She was unseeded last year and lost in the finals of both the Girls 18 and women’s open singles finals to former Dunlap standout Emma Templin.
But against San Jose, Coulter, the No. 1 seed, had her serve broken just once in the title match.
"I was really nervous at first and was playing a little tight," she said. "But then I decided to just watch the ball and relax, and remember that this was all about having fun. Then everything started to click.
"I wanted to do Tri-County this year because it’s a good warmup for the (high school) season."
In the Boys 10 group, top-seeded Abhilash Pentela completed a 3-0 run in the round-robin format with a 6-1, 6-0 decision over Daniel Nathan to win the title. James Bartelme claimed third with a three-set win over Kace Tyler.
The junior portion of the tournament concludes on Friday with championship matches in Girls 10 singles and Boys 18 doubles (both at 1 p.m.) and Girls 14 singles (2:30 p.m.).
Johnny Campos can be reached at 696-3214 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JohnnyCampos59.