GIBRALTAR – Cole Fountain is the utility man for the Gibraltar Carlson men’s tennis team.
It stays connected to the schedule when and where it’s needed.
“He’s our 13th guy,” said Carlson coach Rocco Giorgi. “He’s a reserve guy, but where he wants someone to be missing, he fills in.”
The Marauders had a hole in doubles number 1 on Monday because of illness and went to the Fountain to the rescue.
He played a key role as Carlson drew Bedford 4-4.
Giorgi found out on Monday that one of his players in the top doubles division couldn’t play against Bedford.
Rather than shuffling his lineup and moving someone from one of the lower flights, Giorgi opted to put Fountain first and keep the other pairings intact.
“Four or five years ago they changed it to rules where you could go directly into your lineup so all the guys don’t have to move,” Giorgi said.
Fountain had never paired with John Hownowski before, but the two managed a thrilling 7-6, 7-5 victory over the Bedford duo of Jack Nigh and Gavin Regalado.
“We train a lot of duos in practice, so the guys are ready to play anyone,” said Giorgi. “He played well. … I’m glad we took it out. Bedford had a good team there.”
Bedford coach Eric Cukierski agreed that the first two pairs were key to the match.
“I kind of hoped we could take a double or two,” he said. “Both were very close, but we just couldn’t finish either of them.”
Carlson’s team, consisting of Nico Roach and Trey Fields, won a three-set set in number 2 doubles 1-6, 6-3, 10-4.
Photo gallery:Bedford at Gibraltar Carlson Men’s Tennis
Preston Eighmey-Isaac Kolasa and Matt Vizachero-Ben Witkowski dropped out a total of just four games at number 3 and 4 to complete a Carlson doubles sweep.
“They were very strong in those last two pairs,” Cukierski said.
Doubles have always been a strength for Carlson in Giorgi’s 17 seasons as a coach. He’s always been able to scale big rosters, which leads to a lot of depth.
“Doubles have been our bread and butter for the past 15 years,” he said. “We won a lot of doubles matches.”
Bedford clinched the tie on Monday by winning the singles with Noah Kaplan, Jaxon Nejedlik, Vince Cole and Braden Vineyard.
Nejedlik was dominant at number 2, winning 6-0, 6-0.
“He took care of business quickly,” Cukierski said.
Kaplan was also in control of number 1 with a 6-3 6-2 win. He is the undisputed leader of the Mules.
“He’s been No. 1 all four years,” Cukierski said of the veteran. “I think he started this season with a mission. He won the Regional last year, but he had a very difficult draw at the state.
“His goal is to get back to the state and do something worth mentioning. It was a little overwhelming for him there last year. It won’t be this year. I think he can do some stuff there.”
Kaplan’s goal this year is to have the entire Bedford team in the state finals.
“It’s been a long time, maybe 2003,” Cukierski said when asked about Bedford’s last trip to the state as a team. “I think we’ll be in the middle. This year’s team is more focused on qualifying for the state than any other team in the last seven years.”
Kaplan and Nejedlik give the Mules hope. Both come off big wins during a double date against the perennial power Ann Arbor Pioneer.
“They make my job easier,” Cukierski said. “We are expecting great things from these guys. I hope they can put it together when it really matters.”
Cukierski is pleased with Bedford’s 4-3-1 record in doubles, considering there were doubts before practice began whether the Mules would be able to field a full team.
“We had six new veterans who had never played before,” he said. “That really helped.”
Carlson is at 4-6-3, but three of those losses came when the Marauders played Midland Dow (No. 1 Division 2), Mattawan (No. 3 Division 2) and Traverse City Central (No. 8 Division 2) in a tournament at the same day.
“I don’t like ties, but this is a rebuilding year for us,” Giorgi said. “Whenever we get a win or a draw, it’s a good day for us.”