Team's lone varsity senior claims deciding match in three sets to cap 5-4 CHS win at Excelsior Springs in 2018 district tournament opener Monday, May 7

EXCELSIOR SPRINGS, Mo. — Gunnar Young, a Chillicothe (Mo.) HS senior who had not played tennis on an organized level prior to this spring, shrugged off potential frustration Monday to keep the Hornets’ team season going at least one more day.
Dropping a second-set tiebreaker which would have given him and CHS the Class 1 District 15 Tournament first-round match against host Excelsior Springs, Young dominated Jaxon Pitts of the Tigers in deciding set of their No. 5 singles match to lift fifth-seeded Chillicothe a 5-4 triumph over the fourth-seeded hosts.
The CHS reward will be a 4 p.m. dual match at Trenton today (Tuesday, May 8, 2018). Trenton has shut out the Hornets twice in as many meetings this season.
With the Hornets having captured two of the three single-set doubles matches, even with a surprising turnabout and shocking, sudden end to No. 1 singles play, ESHS’ Tigers had clawed back even with three wins in the first five best-of-3-sets singles matches to wrap up.
That left the dual match’s outcome resting on the shoulders of Young, younger brother of a former Hornets netter, and Pitts.
While the teams had met in a late-March dual in Chillicothe and won 5-4 by the Tigers, these two combatants were squaring off for the first time, since Young then was playing No. 6 singles for CHS and Pitts was at No. 5.
Each won their singles competition in that March match, but Monday, with Young elevated one notch in the Hornets’ lineup by a season-ending injury to a teammate in midseason, there could be only one winner. Counterintuitively, it was the upgraded Hornet.
The first set went the regulation distance before Young took the 12th game to second a 7-5 win. The second set went beyond regulation distance as the duo split 12 games evenly. The 12-points tiebreaker (first to win at least seven points with a 2-points advantage when he reached seven or beyond) was equally close, but with Pitts ahead after 11 points and then capturing the next rally to win the tiebreaker 7-5 and the set 7-6.
Given the home-courts advantage, his prior victory over the player CHS had at No. 4 position Monday, Matt Callen, and the momentum Pitts figured to have after staying alive and evening the match with his tiebreaker success, Young had some intangible strikes against him going to the last set.
He ignored them, however, jumping into an early lead and, in contrast to the first two sets, staying there to post a clear-cut 6-2 decision in set No. 3 and ignite a Chillicothe celebration.
That completed a perfect day on the court for Young, who – with Callen – had bested the Antonio Martinez-Pitts combo 8-4 in No. 3 doubles.
While the No. 5 singles match determined the final outcome, the most-intriguing match of the day was at No. 1 singles where Chillicothe junior Tyler Maasdam projected to have a steep-uphill task against ESHS’ Seth Forstner. When the two had dueled in late March, Forstner had roared to an 8-1 triumph.
Early on Monday on the Tigers’ home courts, however, it became clear Maasdam had matured significantly over the previous 6-plus weeks.
The Hornets junior, the team’s only returnee from the regular 2017 varsity lineup that had him in the No. 4 slot, “was able to frustrate Forstner,” CHS coach Bob Long reports, by hanging in most every point and game.
In fact, by the time the first set reached its 10th game, it was Maasdam who had the 5-4 lead and a chance to claim the set. The Chillicothe player did just that, winning the game for a 6-4 set triumph that meant Forstner would need to go the 3-sets distance to prevail.
When the early going of the second set saw the tenor of the first set continue, with the Hornets junior again staying right with the ESHS senior, Maasdam’s confidence soared and the Tiger’s sank.
When CHS’ top player, who became much more competitive in his singles sets the last three weeks or so of the regular season, beat Forstner in the sixth game, it gave Maasdam a 4-2 lead, rather than the set being tied.
Although coach Long did not elaborate – perhaps because he did not know for certain – on whether there might have been a physical cause or only a mental one of frustration with not handling his Chillicothe foe handily again, when the sixth game of the second set was over, the ESHS player retired (in tennis parlance) from the match.
The stunning decision made Maasdam a 6-4, 4-2 straight-sets winner of No. 1 singles and, at that moment, pushed the Hornets ahead in the team score 4-3.
The two singles matches unfinished at that juncture – Nos. 2 and 5 – both were close as the spotlight turned more-fully to them.
Even though it went three sets, the No. 2 clash finished first with Hornets junior Grahm Mayers unable to follow up on his first-set win in a very close 6-4, 5-7, 4-6 defeat at the hands of Austin Clawson. Clawson gutted it out despite an injury, Long reports.
That left the matter in the hands of Young and Pitts, who likewise went the full three sets before settling things.
Chillicothe’s other singles win was a decisive one from junior Seth Batye, who stepped into the varsity lineup after the midseason mishap that removed Brenden Nelson from the sport.
Batye jumped on Antonio Martinez from the word “go,” losing only one game in a 6-1, 6-0 clubbing in No. 6 position.
Like Young, Batye’s singles success followed a winning doubles decision, as well. Paired with Maasdam at No. 2 slot, the 11th graders doubled up Preston Hoffman and Riley Dotson by the same 8-4 margin Callen-Young had won by at No. 3 post.
No. 1 doubles had gone to Excelsior Springs easily, with Forstner/Clawson prevailing 8-2 over Mayers and Noah Crowe.
Crowe and Callen fell in straight sets in their Nos. 3 and 4 singles action, respectively.