DUNLAP — All eyes were focused on the No. 1 singles match at Thursday’s boys tennis sectional final between Northridge and Concord.
There was plenty of attention directed at that matchup because the winner would give his team a sectional title.
Gabe Rodino would eventually win the match for the Raiders 6-2, 7-6 (7-5) over Bryson Schrock to give Northridge a 3-2 win.
It’s the first sectional title since 2015 for Northridge and the Raiders got a satisfying win over a nemesis, as Concord had won sectional final matches over Northridge the last three years.
The Raiders advance to the Concord regional next Tuesday and will face the East Noble sectional winner. That winner will be determined on Saturday.
After getting the win, Rodino was mobbed by his teammates. He had played on the last three Northridge teams that had lost to Concord.
“There was a lot of pressure, but I like playing under those conditions,” said Rodino. “It’s a good feeling.
“They’ve given us some really rough competition. We were really close to beating my freshman year (3-2 Concord win). I’m pretty sure it wasn’t close my sophomore (5-0) or junior year (4-1) because they had fantastic teams. To come back and beat them my senior year is just phenomenal.”
Rodino erased a 4-3 deficit in the second set and a 2-0 deficit in the tie-breaker.
“I was just trying to stay focused,” Rodino said. “I had a couple of match points coming into that tie-break and I was kind of frustrated. But I had to keep that out of mind and play my game and play aggressive. He was playing really well at the net and making a lot of good shots. I was just trying to push him back and play my game.”
The Raiders also beat the Minutemen, 3-2, during the regular season on September 19th.
Northridge first-year coach Austin Christner, who was the Westview girls tennis coach last spring, was asked if he knew about rivalry between the Raiders and the Minutemen.
“I really didn’t know about the rivalry until we got into it this year,” said Christner. “Our regular season match is when I got acquainted with the Northridge-Concord rivalry. I really didn’t know what I was getting into. I was an NECC (Fairfield) guy in high school. It’s a great rivalry and Concord is a great team. I’m just happy that the match went in our favor tonight.”
During the regular season, Rodino beat Schrock, 6-2, 6-2.
“We’ve seen Concord and I’ve watched Bryson and I knew he was a fighter,” Christner said. “I knew he wasn’t going to go anywhere. With it being 2-2 and coming down to No. 1 singles, honestly, I couldn’t think of anyone else that I would rather have out there than Gabe. He’s a senior, our best player and one of the leaders on our team. Just a guy we know that’s going to compete as hard as he can.”
Concord coach Todd Denton and his assistants talked to their very young team for several minutes after the tough loss.
“It was very competitive,” said Denton. “We gave them all they wanted. We kept improving as the year went along. Not one of these guys played varsity last year. For me to have a 9-9 team with this group with the heart and fight that they put out there, I’ll take that all the time. It was very impressive today.
“Gabe won conference this year. The first time they played this year Gabe kind of handled Bryson a little bit. But (Bryson) came into today with a better game plan and was executing it very well today.”
NORTHRIDGE 3, CONCORD 2
Singles: Gabe Rodino (N) def. Bryson Schrock 6-2, 7-6 (7-2). Mitchell Whitehead (C) def. Grant Martin 6-1, 6-2. Nathan Schraw (C) def. Cameron Henry 6-3, 6-1.
Doubles: Aaron Cripe / Evan Nay (N) def. Kayden Cain / Gavin Smith 6-2, 7-5. Collin Seeger / Cole Miller (N) def. Thomas Burkert / Brayden Newburn 7-6 (7-5), 6-3.
The Minutemen jumped out to a 2-0 lead after getting wins from No. 2 singles player Mitchell Whitehead and No. 3 singles player Nathan Schraw.
The Raiders rallied behind wins from its No. 2 doubles team of Collin Seegert and Cole Miller and No. 1 doubles team of Aaron Cripe and Evan Nay.