SHS Loses Twice
Blacksburg Wins Singles, Doubles
PENN LAIRD — Underneath the blazing sun Wednesday afternoon at Spotswood High School, senior Joe Dillenbeck let his emotions take over the match.
Not in a good way.
The 6-foot-5, 195-pound Trailblazer with a heavy-handed serve melted under the heat to Blacksburg junior Thomas Ducker, falling 6-2, 6-3 in the 3A West regional boys’ singles tennis final.
“I think I have the game to do good things, I just need to put it all together and finish,” said Dillenbeck, who clinched a berth in the 3A state tournament with his semifinal win Tuesday. “I’m struggling with that a little bit. I think if I can get my head on straight I’ll be able to do some work at states. I just got to be able to finish.”
Dillenbeck will face the winner of Friday’s 3A East regional championship match — either James Monroe’s Walt Mahon or Culpeper’s Dylan Christensen— at 10 a.m. on June 12 at Liberty University in Lynchburg. The winner will play for the state title at 1 p.m. that day.
Ducker, a quicker, more finesse player than the larg er Dillenbeck, made the most of his chances Wednesday. Ducker said his goal was to keep the ball in play and force Dillenbeck into mistakes, a strategy that proved fruitful in the championship match.
“I can go either way, keeping it in or hitting it hard,” said Ducker, who defeated Western Albemarle’s Tucker Ottaway on Tuesday. “When the guy’s making a lot of unforced errors, you just got to keep it in and make him work for you.”
Both players noted that the sun, shining in the face of the player serving southward with their back to Massanutten Mountain, was a major factor in the match. Ducker was able to overcome it; Dillenbeck was not.
The Spotswood right-hander took his frustrations out on his racket (kicking or throwing it), the ball (slamming it into the air and the surrounding fence) or himself (making sarcastic comments about his poor play). It didn’t help against Ducker, who was able to use Dillenbeck’s negative energy to his advantage.
“[Ducker’s] just very consistent and he doesn’t make a lot of mistakes, so you have to beat him with shots, which means Joe’s got to hit some strong, powerful shots that are in,” SHS coach Jim Roth said. “Sometimes those [mental] things get to him a little more than they should.”
Dillenbeck said he was 0-for-8 on break points against Ducker, an opponent Roth mentioned was similar to Brookville’s Bryce Barber, whom Dillenbeck beat in the semifinals. The slower, more accurate style of Barber and Ducker is sometimes the perfect way to beat the hard-hitting Dillenbeck.
“I know he thinks he can beat kids like that; he’s just got to play better than he did today,” Roth said.
Even with the loss, Dillenbeck said he is confident in his chances to win a state title.
“Today really doesn’t matter; I was going to states either way,” said Dillenbeck, who is now 18-3 this year. “It was definitely an important match, but I’m really going to have to bring it and regroup and have a good mental game [at states]. I think I can do something special at states if I put it all together.”
The Spotswood doubles team of Dillenbeck and Emmett Johnson, which qualified for states with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Hidden Valley on Wednesday morning, fell to the Blacksburg doubles pair of Ducker and Rohan Kumar 6-1, 6-1 in the afternoon. Dillenbeck and Johnson will play in the state doubles semifinals on June 13 at 10 a.m. against the 3A East champion.