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Two shots turn tide: Khuntangta's comeback seals Warriors' win

Sterling's Dustin Stoudt returns a volley during the No. 1 doubles match Thursday against Dixon at Sterling High School. Stoudt and teammate Jonathon Downing lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Dixon's Kurt Gale and Romulo Lobo, but Sterling won the Northern Illinois Big 12 meet 3-2.
Sterling's Dustin Stoudt returns a volley during the No. 1 doubles match Thursday against Dixon at Sterling High School. Stoudt and teammate Jonathon Downing lost 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 to Dixon's Kurt Gale and Romulo Lobo, but Sterling won the Northern Illinois Big 12 meet 3-2.

STERLING – Down by three games late in the first set, Micah Khuntangta continued to fight.

The Sterling senior bounced back, reeling off five straight wins on his way to a 7-5, 6-4 victory over Dixon’s Joey Hammitt at No. 1 singles. It helped the Golden Warriors to a 3-2 win in the Northern Illinois Big 12 matchup Thursday at Sterling High School.

Khuntangta trailed 5-2 before storming back. A key moment turned the match around.

“When I was down 5-2, it was my serve, and I hit two passing shots when he came to the net,” Khuntangta said. “After that, he got down on himself and he stopped being so aggressive. Those two passing shots in a row were big.”

Also helping Sterling (1-3, 1-1 NIB 12) to its first win of the season were the doubles
teams of Temo Barron and Cody Woodyatt, and Max Kasprzak and Victor
Renteria.

Barron and Woodyatt earned a 6-2, 6-4 win over Dixon’s Max Benon and John Brechon at No. 2 doubles, while Kasprzak and Renteria were 6-4, 6-3 winners over Justin Gardner and Brandon Helfrich at No. 3.

Barron and Woodyatt have had limited time as a tandem.

“I think I’ve had a different partner every time,” Woodyatt said. “It’s tough getting used to, especially playing meet after meet after meet. This was only the second time we’ve played together.”

It was Sterling’s third meet in 3 days.

“We played good, but we could have done way better,” Barron said. “We missed some easy plays that we just needed communication on.”

Dixon (0-2, 0-2) got wins from Matthew Kerr at No. 2 singles and Kurt Gale and Romulo Lobo at No. 1 doubles.

Kerr thumped Chandler Allen 6-0, 6-0, while Gale and Lobo came from behind for a 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win over Jonathon Downing and Dustin Stoudt.

“It was great to get a win under the belt,” Sterling coach Kip Aitken said. “I’ve been juggling the lineup a little bit trying to find the right matchups. It was nice to see some teams starting to jell on the doubles side.”

Dixon coach Steve Boll knows better days are ahead.

“We’ve been trying to strengthen our Nos. 2 and 3 doubles,” Boll said. “When we get some wins in those spots, we’ll see things flip around. For being our second meet out, I can’t complain too much on how the kids are playing.”

Star of the meet: Micah Khuntangta, Sterling, overcame 5-2 first-set deficit in 7-5, 6-4 No. 1 singles win

Key performers: Temo Barron and Cody Woodyatt, Sterling, 6-2, 6-4 win at No. 2 doubles; Kurt Gale and Romulo Lobo, Dixon, came back for 2-6, 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles

Up next: Sterling at Mendota, 4:30 p.m. Monday; Ottawa at Dixon, 4:30 p.m. Tuesday

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