DIXON – Momentum can often be a fickle friend in sports. It can shift as easily as the wind blows, and often changes directions again just as quickly.
But old mo was pretty tried and true Thursday afternoon at the Emma Hubbs Tennis Courts in Dixon's Page Park. The Dixon Dukes downed the Sterling Golden Warriors 3-2 in a NIB-12 dual tennis meet, with all five victories for both teams coming in straight sets.
"You always want to win that first set," Dixon junior Justin Wilson said, "and hope that good start leads to a good ending. It doesn't always happen that way, but it was a good feeling today … and it's even nicer when it comes against Sterling."
Wilson and partner Ian South were the first winners, downing Sterling's Gage Bright and Hunter Wolfe 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. The two singles matches ended next, with Sterling's Jack Nitz beating Dixon's John Brechon 6-2, 6-3; Dixon regained the team lead a few minutes later when Sam Bratt defeated Sterling's Lane Martells 6-3, 6-3.
The No. 1 singles match featured strong groundstrokes by Nitz, as well as the sophomore's ability to fend off the aggressive serving of Dixon senior Brechon.
"My mental game was strong today, and my shots were falling," Nitz said. "I got it flowing early, and it's good to see that; I got off top a rough start this season, and I finally feel like I got a solid win today."
Bratt controlled the No. 2 singles match, as the Dixon freshman repeatedly forced Sterling junior Martells to retreat after running to the net.
"My cross-court forehand was on today; I just worked on it a lot Sunday, and his style was setting up nicely for it," Bratt said. "He was coming to the net hard, and I was able to get the shots past him."
Leading 2-1, the Dukes (2-3, 1-1) wrapped up the team win when the No. 3 doubles team of Andy Clark and Brandon Helfrich finished off Sterling's Alex Soriano and Jacob Reynolds 6-3, 6-1.
The tightest match of the day came at No. 1 doubles, where Sterling's Dustin Stoudt and Zak Khan won a 7-6 (4), 6-2 decision over Dixon's Keenan Longan and Zach Healy. The teams traded games won throughout the entire first set, before the Warrior duo took the tiebreaker 7-4.
That propelled them to victory in the second set. The teams again traded games to start, but Sterling rattled off the final three games after taking a 3-2 lead, breaking the Dukes' duo three times in the final set.
"That tiebreaker is always key; I felt like it gave us a boost heading into the second set," said Stoudt, a senior. "The key then was to not let them get back in it. We were pretty pumped, and we knew we had it when we finally won a few games in a row in the second set."
The closeness of the final score was no surprise to either squad, as both teams were looking for a rivalry win to hopefully kick-start things after slow starts – especially after they both dropped their conference openers.
Dixon ended up celebrating the win, while Sterling (0-3, 0-2) left still seeking its first win of the year.
"It's my first time playing them, and it's nice to win such an intense rivalry," Bratt said. "Whoever got the momentum first seemed to hold on to it today, and that's nice to see, because we've been struggling a bit. This is a good overall win, and hopefully it leads to more good things the rest of the season."
Dixon 3, Sterling 2
Dixon winners: Sam Bratt (No. 2 singles), Ian South & Justin Wilson (No. 2 doubles), Andy Clark & Brandon Helfrich (No. 3 doubles)
Sterling winners: Jack Nitz (No. 1 singles), Dustin Stoudt & Zak Khan (No. 1 doubles)
Up next: Mendota at Sterling, 4:30 p.m. Monday; Dixon at Ottawa, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday