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Pulaski Academy rolls to team titles

by Todd Pearce | October 13, 2021 at 4:00 a.m.

There was power on display during the second day of the Class 4A state tennis tournament Tuesday afternoon at Little Rock's Rebsamen Tennis Center, and there was a good bit of drama, too.

Pulaski Academy senior Noah Becker, No. 91 in the United States Tennis Association 18-under national rankings, strong-armed his way to his first boys singles title with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Ethan Bacsa of Valley View.

Becker's performance capped a dominating day for the Bruins, who won their seventh consecutive boys team title and a third girls title in a row.

One award Pulaski Academy did not win was the girls single medal, which went to Cydney Rogers of Valley View.

Rogers, working her way back from a torn labrum in her left hip that kept her off the courts for nearly six months, was overcome with emotion after defeating Zayla Ware of Joe T. Robinson 6-1, 4-6, 6-4.

"I've won many tournaments before, but nothing meant more to me than winning this one this year," said Rogers, who underwent surgery last February and just started playing again in August. "The amount that I've gone through the past year has been so overwhelming. My goal was to get ready for this tournament and be healthy.

"I've never been more proud of myself. It means more to me than anything."

It wasn't easy.

Rogers won the first set 6-1 and was up 4-0 in the second half when everything turned.

"I kind of let the whole moment start getting to me," Rogers said. "And I started getting tight."

Rogers was also getting irritated by some of the line calls made by Ware, a ninth-grader who was smooth and poised throughout.

Ware led 4-3 in the third set when Pulaski Academy Coach Bill Topish, the tournament director, was brought in to serve as an unbiased judge.

"Her calling made things a little more difficult," Rogers said.

Ware shrugged off the difference of opinion on the line calls.

"That's part of the game," Ware said. "It happens."

Rogers said her expression of displeasure may have tipped the match her way in the third set, and Ware did not disagree.

"In the third set, I might have rattled her a little bit," Rogers said.

"It bothered me a little bit," Ware said.

It's possible the two will meet again during the state Overall tournament at Burns Park Tennis Center in North Little Rock next Tuesday-Wednesday.

Rogers, Ware, Becker and Bacsa all earned invitations to that event, along with boys and girls doubles finalists.

The Pulaski Academy girls doubles team of Julienne and Jaymie Angtuaco won their second consecutive title, beating teammates Caroline Chambers and Danna Homsi 6-3, 6-1.

Pulaski Academy's Nathaniel Byrd and Jake Rogers defeated teammates William Harrison and Nicco Duina 6-2, 2-6, 6-1 in the boys doubles final.

Becker, unable to play singles last year because of a bad ankle, was part of PA's winning boys doubles team one year ago.

Now he joins a growing line of Pulaski Academy singles champions.

"PA has been fortunate to have a slew of phenomenal male singles players ... all within the last 10-15 years," Topish said, rattling off the names of Julio Olaya, Jake Jacoby, Hunter Harrison and Foster Rogers. "We've had so many singles boys champions it's been phenomenal. Arguably Noah could be the best ever. His power and he makes very few mental and physical mistakes. His mental and physical game is beyond reproach."

Becker, who has signed a letter of intent to play college tennis at Notre Dame, said he was impressed with the competition he received from Basca, who exchanged ground strokes with Becker early in the first set.

"He can play," Becker said of Bacsa. "All the serves, he couldn't really handle them."

Bacsa, who has played competitively against Becker's younger brother Jonah, said it was a case of him not being able to match Becker's intensity.

"I feel like he raised his level and I couldn't really raise it with him," Bacsa said. "I wanted to try to mix up different things. My coach told me to only try to hit winners on him. I did hit a few."

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