Grizzlies sweep Timberwolves
That’s the number of victories the Grizzlies had last season. They took one step closer to exceeding its win total in 2013 with a 5-3 win Thursday over Tualatin.
The Grizzlies (11-2) had two major goals against the Timberwolves (8-5): Get two wins closer to matching 13 wins with three matches left to play, which it did. The second was to sweep the season series with Tualatin for the first time since 2002. Thanks to the play McMinnville’s doubles, it earned it.
The Timberwolves won the four singles matches 3-1, but it was the Grizzlies’ 4-0 sweep of doubles that secured the win.
“It’s great. It’s been over a decade, but Tualatin is always super competitive,” McMinnville coach Wes Gabrielsen said. “They improve consistently more than any other team we play, so for us to win, it shows we’ve improved tremendously.”
After Nathan Johnson finished his one singles match vs. Tualatin’s Randall Tainer, Johnson walked over to the courtside bench, sat down, wiped down his face, took a sip of Gatorade, exchanged his shoes for a faithful old pair of flip flops and walked off the court seemingly disappointed but satisfied at the same time. Johnson had just lost to Tainer for the fourth straight time in his career.
“I think this time I played better than I’ve ever played against him before,” Johnson said. “I was able to bring parts of my game that haven’t been quite up to snuff. (Tainer’s) good player and I felt good about it.”
The two began play at 4:05 p.m. and due to Johnson’s ability to battle back from a deficit, the two wrapped up at exactly 5:30 p.m.
The other intriguing match was No. 2 singles.
Reza Refaei took on Ryan Malinowski. Both players had momentum coming into the match. Rafaei won his singles match Friday at Hillsboro, while Malinowski won his Thursday vs. Tigard.
Like Johnson, Rafaei battled for over an hour, but it was Malinowski that earned the 6-2, 6-4 win.
“It was a hard match,” Rafaei said. “We are really similar because we both hit high with a lot of top spin, and it’s always a lengthy match.”
In doubles, it was same story, different court. When the Will Worth and Adam Kiff met Tyler Snyder and Josh Olson on April 2 (also a 5-3 win), McMinnville shut out Tualatin’s doubles, and this time was no different. Worth and Kiff earned a big 6-4, 6-2 win in one doubles, Brendon Walters and Nicky Domenichini teamed up for a 6-4, 6-4 win at two, Daniel Post and Isaac Balwit won 6-3, 6-3 at three, and George Zakaib and Wyatt Waterbury won 6-4, 6-2 for the Grizzlies sweep.
Gabrielsen said this time around he wanted to mix and match doubles combinations to keep the pressure on the Timberwolves.
“The last time we played, we swept them,” Gabrielsen said. “So, this time we had some different combinations that had never really played together before and so it showed our depth.”
The match of the night was three singles, with Cody Thomas and Dahn Nguyen battling back and forth for two hours with Nguyen finally earning a 1-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Thomas as the clock struck 7:30 p.m.
The two traded point for point as the match went on for the first hour, but Thomas soundly took set one. As evening came and the weather cooled, Nguyen became faster and more energized, which helped give him the win.
The Grizzlies earned a sweep over the Timberwolves for the first time in over a decade and moved two wins closer to last season’s total of 13.
With two matches left, plus the Grizzly’s Invite, the Grizzlies have about five chances to beat 13. Gabrielsen said McMinnville isn’t thinking about No. 13 because he said he knows they can exceed it.
“It’s going to be tough,” Gabrielsen said, “Based on our next two matches and our tournament, I think we can exceed 13.”