WILLOW SPRINGS – Trailing 2-1 after doubles play and with its top singles player down one set, the Houston tennis team was in a perilous position in the district championship match. But behind a comeback from its leader, HHS rallied for a milestone victory.
No. 1 singles player Isaiah Buse bounced back from his tough start to set the tone for the Tigers as they won the top four individual matches to down Willow Springs 5-2 Thursday afternoon in the title game of Class 1 District 9.
The team championship was the first for HHS coach John Jordan, who has led the program for 18 seasons. It’s the first district title for Houston High School since the girls’ basketball team in 2016.
“We’re happy to get that for coach,” Buse said.
It definitely wasn’t easy.
After Clayton Moore and Kyle Mills lost a tough 9-8 (2) decision in doubles play to put Houston behind 2-1, Buse dropped his opening set 6-3 to the reigning South Central Association singles champion. But Buse responded.
The junior, who lost just one time during the regular season, rallied to win the next two sets for a 3-6, 6-2, 6-3 victory. Jordan said the win was the turning point of the match.
“I’m proud of him. He’s the leader of this team,” Jordan said. “He got a little down on himself, but his attitude changed, he got more positive and he pulled it out.”
Buse said he was more worried about the team than himself when he fell behind.
“All I could think was, ‘If you quit now, you’re letting your team down,’” he said. “That’s not something I wanted to do.”
Houston (10-2) got another close win at No. 3 singles as Moore beat his opponent 6-3, 4-6, 6-2. The other two individual wins weren’t close as Kyler Ramsey, who like Buse only lost one singles match this season, cruised to a 6-0, 6-4 win and Kyle Mills won 6-1, 6-3.
Mills’ victory at No. 4 singles clinched the championship.
“You’ve got to have athletes to play this game,” Jordan said. “We’ve got good athletes.”
District play consists of three doubles matches to eight and six best-of-3 singles matches to six. The first team to win five matches advances. Both second-seeded Houston and No. 1 Willow Springs (10-7) won their semifinal matches 5-1 on Tuesday.
Houston’s lone doubles win – the No. 3 team of Elliot Clark and Prairie Nunnery lost 8-1 – was by Buse and Ramsey. The duo cruised to an 8-1 victory.
“Our No. 1 doubles is pretty strong. I don’t worry about them too much,” Jordan said.
Buse and Ramsey won the SCA title in doubles play and compete Friday for the district doubles title. Buse said playing together comes pretty naturally.
“We’ve been best friends since before I can remember,” he said. “The teamwork is there, and the communication is always there.”
Houston’s 10 wins is the most in Jordan’s tenure with the program, which he said obviously makes it one of the best ones he has led.
“This would be one of my top two teams,” he said. “And they’re all juniors, so next year ought to be a great year.”