Doherty blanks Mesa Ridge in boys' tennis

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Doherty's Caleb Laurence took every opportunity to gain an edge in his boys' tennis match Wednesday afternoon.

Even during warm-ups, he was closely watching his opponent's every move. His preparation, it turns out, worked out in his favor -- as the senior convincingly topped Mesa Ridge's Christian Jackson 6-0, 6-2 in their No. 1 singles match.

"That's usually a good indication of how they're going to hit in the match, but maybe a little softer," Laurence said, referring to his opponent's practice swings. "So, I'd like to send harder shots to see if they can return it."

His victory highlighted the Spartans' day, in which they shut out Mesa Ridge 7-0 in nonconference action at the Doherty tennis courts to improve to 3-2 in dual play. No. 2 Kyle Stearns topped Isaac Wright 6-0, 6-3, and No. 3 Dominic Manzo beat Zion Dean 6-0, 6-0 to round out Doherty's singles victories.

Manzo, a junior, improved to 4-1 this season. He didn't falter whenever Dean landed the ball just over the net.

"He saw he had an opportunity because his opponent was hitting a lot of short balls and he had a lot of opportunities to get to the net quickly and end points quickly," Doherty coach James Blase said. "He's a singles player who took the net aggressively and adapted to what his opponent was throwing at him."

As in singles, the Spartans' doubles didn't need extra sets to come out on top.

No. 1 Benji Troutman/Emory Wood, No. 2 Wiley Neumeyer/Bryan Becar, No. 3 Blake Webber/PJ Olmsted and No. 4 Vicente Tapia/Cameron Weisberg all were victorious and capped off a perfect day for Doherty.

"Quite often they'll hold back," Blase said. "They're not playing their best, they're not playing to their potential, they get conservative. ... Today, I think they played with a certain confidence that allowed them to play up to their ability level."

Mesa Ridge coach Lisa Felice said her Grizzlies (2-6 in dual play including blanking Harrison on Tuesday) faced a bigger and more experienced squad in Doherty, pointing out that the team boasts only three returners along with a few players whose first sport isn't tennis. Nonetheless, she saw the loss as a good learning experience.

"I just wish the winning and losing for them is devastating but they played so much better when they played a higher-level team," Felice said. "They can do it. They just don't know that they can do it just yet."