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North Bend and Marshfield girls face off in tennis

Marshfield junior Marisela Casas hits the ball during her doubles match against North Bend on April 25, 2017.

Bethany Baker, The World

COOS BAY — Progress is the main idea for both the Marshfield and North Bend girls tennis teams. But progress in different terms.

Though North Bend swept the season's second Civil War on Tuesday 5-0, it wasn’t a day without progress for either team.

“(We’re) just continuing trying to build the team sense of our tennis program,” Bulldogs coach Corey Goll said.

North Bend is working to create more cohesion within its unit.

Led by Goll, who referenced his other coaching gig on the Bulldogs football team, North Bend is trying things to better prepare them for districts, where lots of courts and lots of eyes are the norm.

For instance, whenever there’s a tiebreaker, he goes to the court and just generally oversees things. But he also wants his players to go support their teammates during the tense tiebreaks.

“It’s amazing how many girls don’t want other girls to watch them play,” Goll said. “I don’t know if it makes them nervous, but I’m trying to get that out of their system. Because when we get to the district tournament, there’s eight courts going and probably only one of your teammates going at a time and everyone else is watching. Just trying to get them used to that feeling that they can be under watch.”

Tuesday, North Bend had two tiebreak wins, with No. 3 singles Hannah Graber working for a 2-6, 6-4, 16-14 win, and the team of Sareal Strain and Claire Peters outlasted Amanda Engelmeier and Deanne Cotell 7-5, 4-6, 10-3 in the No. 1 doubles match.

For the singles tiebreak, the last match of the day to conclude, most of the North Bend team gathered to watch, sitting together while Graber edged Maddy Suppes.

So, too, was the case earlier in the No. 1 singles match. Usual doubles player Katheryn Hurlbut was instead facing Gracie Jensen on the smaller court with her doubles partner, Macy Metcalf, watching.

Hurlbut never trailed in the match, but Jensen stayed close, keeping pace through the first set using crisp serves and accurate forehands down the opposite line.

Hurlbut, though, took control of the first set after a rally up 3-2. Jensen was about halfway up to the net after a long rally when Hurlbut hit a rocket past her for a point and never looked back.

The second set was tied early 1-1, but Hurlbut won the third and fourth games and Jensen didn’t pull even again as Hurlbut managed at least a game lead for the remainder.

“A win is always nice,” Hurlbut said. “But it’s frustrating when you have an off day.”

“I think she knows there’s a lot of unforced errors she could fix,” Goll added. “And she’s the one that really brought that up. But I thought she played well. Any time you come up with a win, what more could you really ask?”

It was a strange day lineup-wise for the Bulldogs, as Jamison Mateski was playing singles while her regular doubles partner was out of town. She beat Kayla Wyatt 6-4, 6-3 with a second-set comeback to earn her first singles win of the year after spending last season on the smaller court.

“I met with Jamison and told her, ‘You got to take two at some point. You can’t keep trading off,’” Goll said. “Then she took three.’”

Wyatt, a senior, used her athleticism to play defensive tennis and keep the ball in play.

Wyatt, though, is recovering from a knee injury and is just now getting back into fully fledged tennis activities.

“I didn’t play as good as I normally do,” she said.

Marshfield is still building its program under first-year coach John Nicolaus, and he is impressed with the progress made since matches started last month.

“The improvement for the girls has just been remarkable,” Nicolaus said. “This is my first year of coaching, but I don’t know you get an opportunity to see progress from zero to three or four. It’s fantastic. We’re getting games, now we’re getting games. First you gotta get points. We’re accomplishing that, ball over the net. The second is getting some games, which now we’re doing.”

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Sports Reporter