Columbia City grinds out win over Knights

   KENDALLVILLE — The rough and long road in the Northeast Hoosier Conference can be tough anytime a team is away from home.
   On Tuesday, Columbia City boys’ tennis got a strong test in a trip to East Noble. The Knights had the Eagles down in two positions after one set.
   Forcing a third set in both, City rallied for its third win in the NHC 4-1.
   “East Noble has a nice team with a winning record,” Columbia City head coach Doug Stoffel said. “We expected a good match and they played well and gave us one.”
   A close match ensued early with the Knights jumping to a one set lead in No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles.
   Sophomore Derek Hinen had its perfect record on the season in jeopardy. Hinen rallied after a first set 0-6 loss to East Noble’s Devin Wolf to win 6-4, 6-3.
   Seniors Cole Craven and Travis Johnson managed to salvage their match against Chris Doyle and Grant Manon and come back from a 3-6 first set loss. Craven and Johnson took the next two sets 6-4, 6-3.
   The No. 1 doubles duo of Alan Murphy and J.T. Biggs continued a perfect season for Columbia City winning in two comfortable sets 6-1, 6-4 over Knights Jeremy Mertz and Quinton Howell.
   Gabe Boles avoided a three-set match of his own. Boles took the first set 6-1 before rallying from 1-5 deficit in the second set to beat East Noble’s Matt Stallman 7-5.
   “I was particularly impressed with our No. 1 and No. 2 singles players tonight,” Stoffel noted. “Dylan played very well against (Kyle) Johnson, an all NHC player. Gabe also came back from being down 5-1 in the second set.”
   No. 1 singles Dylan Hinen gave Knights ace Kyle Johnson a tough two set match falling 4-6, 4-6.
   “Hopefully, we can use tonight to build a little momentum for Thursday,” Stoffel said.
   The winner of the NHC conference could come with a home match Thursday for the Eagles. No. 22 Carroll comes to town looking to seek revenge for a close loss last season to Columbia City.
   “We managed to just get past Carroll last year and the guys are really excited to play them again,” Stoffel commented. “That match will have all sorts of conference implications as the winner will be virtually assured of at least second in the NHC and possibly even first.
   “We tell the guys to take advantage of opportunities, and Thursday we feel we have a great opportunity.”