Butler junior Brandon Kreger understands the significance of holding the No. 1 seed at the Division I sectional tennis tournament. And even more important is defending it.
Kreger realized just how valuable those seeds can be during his inaugural district tournament appearance last season. Kreger entered district as a No. 4 seed in 2018. That matched him up with a champion from a different sectional tournament and a tougher draw.
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“I played the best match of my life it’s just that kid was insane,” Kreger said of his 6-0, 6-1 loss to Lakota East’s Chris Holden. “He was something else to play. But I had a good time. He had a good attitude and I had a good attitude. It was a real fun match. It felt really good surrounded by tons of people watching you. It was just a fun experience.”
This year, Kreger wants to be that No. 1 seed at district. He’s two wins away.
Kreger reached the sectional semifinals at Troy Community Park on Wednesday to qualify for the district tournament. He plays Sidney freshman Grant Hoying, the No. 4 seed, in the semis at 9 a.m. Saturday. Sidney junior and No. 2-seed Prem Dev plays Northmont sophomore and No. 3-seed Matthew Correll in the other semifinal. The championship matches follow.
“It’s definitely going to be a tough match on Saturday,” Kreger said. “I know most of the kids that are going to be in it. They’re very good players. It’s going to be a fun day. It’s going to be a hard day.”
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On Wednesday, Kreger won his three matches in dominant fashion. After a bye he beat Piqua freshman Cael Barr 6-0, 6-0 in the second round. Kreger beat Troy sophomore Genki Masunaga 6-1, 6-1 in the third round. In the quarterfinals he beat Northmont junior Gavin Lucas 6-0, 6-0.
“I’m confident in my stroke, serve, volley, everything,” Kreger said of his game Wednesday. “My forehand and my serves are really good right now. My serves are setting up my forehand and it’s easy to put away shots. It’s really helping me out.
“I was very nervous (Wednesday) morning. You’re the top person so everyone expects you to get that far. It’s a little bit stressful but once you get on the court it kind of goes away. … I told myself I was going to come out here and play as hard as I could no matter who it was. I’m proud of myself, actually.”
At last year’s sectional tournament Kreger had to battle through a pair of three-set losses in both the semifinals and the match to determine third place. That drained Kreger mentally and physically, so setting himself up for a better draw this season was a priority.
“Being that number one seed just put him in a much better position to be able to play his best all day,” Butler coach Bill Bihn said. “Being the number one seed there were a few players who wanted to stay away from him. He has gotten a lot better both as a person and as a player. Now his junior year this is his best chance by far to make some noise.”
In doubles action on Wednesday, Troy qualified a pair of doubles teams with top-seeded juniors Noah Kleptz and Jackson Goodall. The No. 3-seeded team of junior Sean Dippold and sophomore Noah George also advanced.
Kleptz and Goodall play Stebbins sophomores Joseph Song and Hawkins Parker in the semifinals. Dippold and George face the No.2-seeded team of Tecumseh seniors Christian Hunt and Scot Sinkhorn.
The district tournament is May 16 and 18 at the Lindner Family Tennis Center in Mason.