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Barlow takes a big step toward defending its title

BOYS TENNIS - The Bruins sweep doubles action to beat Central Catholic 5-3
by: David Ball, Barlow senior Kevin Sayson tracks down a return in the backcourt during his three-set loss to Central Catholic's John Brewer in the No. 1 singles match Thursday.

PORTLAND - Barlow senior Michael Bates threw a wrench into the plans of Central Catholic tennis coach Jerry Kearns, preventing a Rams' sweep in singles play and clinching a key 5-3 win for the Bruins.

Kearns juggled his lineup for Thursday's match, stacking all his best players in singles in an attempt to sweep the four bouts. That meant that last year's district doubles champions Peter Brown and Nate Ford were on their own against the Bruins.

The strategy was on track early in the day when Brown earned a quick win in the No. 2 spot, and John Brewer came back for a three-set victory at No. 1 singles.

The teams were deadlocked when the first group of players left the courts.

Enter Bates.

Barlow's No. 3 singles player spoiled Central's plans for a sweep by winning a hard-fought 6-3, 6-2 decision. He dominated the second set, claiming all three games that went to deuce point.

'That was one of the best matches I've seen him play,' Bruins' coach Andrew Pate said. 'He had pin-point control of his passing shots and was hitting the ball more consistently than his opponent.'

Bates used a mix of lobs, drop shots and forehand blasts that kept Ford chasing balls to all corners of the court. He took a commanding 4-0 lead in the second set when he stretched out in the center of the court and punched the ball just over the net for a winner.

Bates converted match point with a perfectly placed forehand return that hit the tape on the left sideline, forcing Ford to sprint wide to keep the point alive. He made the play, but it put him out of position for the next volley, which ended up in the net.

Barlow dominated doubles action, sweeping all four bouts in straight sets.

The Bruins (3-0) host Centennial (2-0) in a battle for first place on Tuesday, April 22.