Homestead boys tennis survived the gantlet and the Spartans are regional champions again.
In order to claim their fourth regional crown in a row, the Spartans had to overcome No. 20 Canterbury in the sectional, then 16th-ranked Carroll in the regional semifinal and finally take out No. 26 Bishop Dwenger in the regional title match.
Homestead passed all of those tests with flying colors, polishing off the impressive stretch with a 4-1 victory Wednesday over a Saints team that had defeated the Spartans in the regular season.
“We knew it was going to be really hard to beat Dwenger,” Spartans No. 1 singles player Thaddeus Dressel said. “We had to go through Carroll first, which we knew wasn't going to be an easy match. ... Once we got through them, Dwenger was going to be tough after losing to them earlier this season. It feels very good to beat them 4-1.
“This is really big for us. Another semistate (appearance) and maybe even going to state another time.”
The No. 4 Spartans (14-4) got off to a hot start against the Saints, with doubles teams Tim Steiner/Landon Sather and Sebastian Cowan/Alex Graber winning their matches in short order. As those matches finished, the three singles matches were all close and Dwenger was still alive.
That didn't last for long, however, as Homestead freshman Stephen Meier, playing at No. 2 singles against Adam Yaggy, a second-team all-state doubles player in 2019, dominated the second set to grab a 7-5, 6-1 win and earn the Spartans the regional title.
“You really want to be hitting on all cylinders at the right time and that's probably the thing we're feeling the best about,” Homestead coach Michael Hower said. “Obviously winning regional is big, but being able to improve on your best is even better. All aspects, it was just a big night for the team to keep guys on the court and keep grinding.”
The Spartans weren't done when Meier clinched the title, either. Dwenger's Brayden LaPan defeated Jared Sagan 6-2, 5-7, 6-1 and it looked as though Saints No. 1 singles Andrew Nuerge, a second-team all-state individual performer last season, would make it a 3-2 Homestead win when he won the first set 7-5 against Dressel.
Instead, Dressel bounced back, taking the second set 6-2. The final set was a back-and-forth affair, but Dressel edged out a 6-4 win, pumping his fist as teammates shouted from outside the fence.
“That was a match that was three matches in one,” Hower said. “Nuerge kept changing his game plan, he sat back and played the first set, he came to the net the second set, and the third set he just started hitting the ball with a ton of topspin. Thaddeus was able to adjust every time and it was two seniors basically bringing their best.
“Thaddeus has been playing better every day and been on a huge roll right now.”
The Spartans now move on to a semistate that they will host Saturday as they look for their 21st state tournament appearance. They'll take on Westview, winners of the Concord Regional.