Slow and sure tactics frustrate Freeport at NIC-10 tennis tournament

MACHESNEY PARK — Owen Helm would hit Belvidere North’s Jack Dickerson hard.

Dickerson would just swallow it.

Again and again. Until Helm misses long or wide.

“It was just too hard to put balls against him,” Helm, a sophomore from Freeport, said after losing 6-3, 6-4 to Dickerson on Saturday at Harlem High School to finish fourth in the tournament. men’s tennis NIC-10 to No. 1 in singles. “He was really consistent.

“I played very well at first, but then I started to put myself down. I just wasn’t playing the smartest tennis and the guy was making me pay for it. But he was good.

“He’s like a ball machine. I am not used to that. I faced another guy before and he hit with great pace.

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Helm couldn’t cross Dickerson, so he tried to go around him. This, too often, has resulted in wide shots.

“I was trying to get past it, but it’s still not my best ability,” Helm said. “I have to work on that.”

Helm and John Helms, who finished fourth in singles No. 2, were the best points for a Freeport team that finished fifth. Auburn scored 56.6 points to claim their fourth consecutive NIC-10 title, followed by: Hononegah 47.2, Belvidere North 45.8 points, Guilford 45.6, Freeport 32.4, Harlem 31.2, Boylan 25, 2, Belvidere 17.6, Jefferson 10.0 and East 5.2.

Helms, a junior, was the No. 2 seed in singles but lost in the semi-final to eventual champion Ben Leake of Belvidere North 4-6, 6-3, 6-0. Helms then lost another match in three sets to Hononegah’s Erik Johnson, 2-6, 6-1, 6-4.

“I was playing a lot of power, really fast, and he started slowing the ball down and lobbing it,” Helms said. “That put me off a bit. Well, more than a bit, I guess.

When he was down 5-2 in the third set, assistant coach Uli Dornhagen advised him to just lob the ball himself. This triggered a turnaround. For a certain time. But at 4-5, 30-all, Helms narrowly missed a forehand wide down the line and then couldn’t sneak past Johnson, who lobbed a backhand over his head to win the last two points and the game.

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“She advised me to play slow,” Helms said. “He understood my faster style of play. I changed it and it worked, then he figured that out too.

“I don’t usually play like this, but you do what you have to do. It’s frustrating. I like to play with rhythm and try to hit the ball hard. Those games that are slower when he just hits back are sometimes very difficult.

“It’s hard not to get mad at yourself. You feel like you’re making these stupid mistakes that you shouldn’t be making, but in reality they’re just good players and they’re good at keeping that ball back. This will help me work on my consistency and make sure I don’t make stupid mistakes.

Freeport's John Helms hits a forehand during the NIC-0 Boys Tennis Tournament Saturday at Harlem High School.

Other notable arrivals from Freeport were freshman JC Herrera and sophomore Nathan Wilks taking sixth in the No. 1 doubles and senior David Helbling and junior Asher Kubly finishing fifth in the No. 2 doubles with a 7 win. -5, 6-4 on Harlem.

“That’s about where I thought we would end up,” coach Ed Schradermeier said of fifth place. “We didn’t do anything spectacular this weekend, but we did just enough to hold on.

“JC Herrera, he’s played eight weeks of tennis now and he’s playing the No. 1 double. It’s a great achievement. It has a lot of potential for the future. Nate Wilks has grown with his boots every year and I’ve seen him make huge adjustments at net. I think he’s going to be a very good player for us in the next two years.

Matt Trowbridge is a sportswriter for the Rockford Register Star. Email him at [email protected] and follow him on Twitter at @MattTrowbridge. Sign up for the Rockford High School newsletter at

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