By SCOTT DAVIDSON
It’s been an injury-filled season for the Warsaw girls tennis team this spring.
The walking-wounded Tigers, though, are ready to put a hurt on their league foes as the Northern Lakes Conference tournament unfolds.
Coach Rick Orban’s team, led by senior star Sarah Hartle, looks to defend its title Wednesday through Friday. Concord High School will play host to the eight-team event, with play slated to start at 4:30 p.m. each day.
“The girls have done a remarkable job this season and I feel pretty good going into the NLC tourney,” said Orban. “I’m very happy with them. We’ve had different lineups with all the injuries, but we’re as healthy as we’ve been all season.”
The Tigers will rely on ace Hartle at No. 1 to set the tone. Warsaw’s lone senior capped her fourth straight unbeaten NLC season Monday with a straight set victory as the Tigers edged Goshen 3-2. Hartle was unbeaten in league play at No. 3 singles as a freshman and sophomore and and at No. 2 last year.
Hartle, who won the No. 2 singles crown at the NLC tourney in 2011, has thrived despite playing in pain all year due to an ankle injury.
“She’s going to be tough to beat,” said Orban of his standout. “She’s just mentally tough and a wonderful kid.”
Warsaw went 6-1 in NLC regular-season play as did Concord. Northridge looked to also finish 6-1 with an NLC rescheduled match at Elkhart Memorial today. Concord clipped the Tigers 3-2, while Warsaw edged Northridge 3-2 and Northridge nipped Concord 3-2.
“Our kids are really confident and I feel like they have overachieved this year,” said Orban, who graduated three seniors from his 2011 team. “Coming into this year, this was an extremely inexperienced team. Our No. 2 and 3 singles players played on our JV last year.”
The Tigers have plenty of youth with sophomores Sarah Boyle and Jacqueline Sasso at No. 2 and 3 singles respectively. Boyle has battled through shoulder and elbow injuries, while Sasso dropped her first NLC match Monday versus Goshen.
Warsaw juniors Lindsay Sciarra and Oliva Wallin comprise the Tigers’ top doubles team, while sophomores Rachel Alexander and Mallory Bartel played at No. 2 Monday. Both teams won versus Goshen to help the Tigers prevail 3-2. Sciarra and Wallin dropped just one NLC regular-season match to Concord.
“Sasso has been tough all year and our No. 1 doubles are playing their best tennis of the season,” Orban said.
The 13th-year Tiger coach noted that his lineup at No. 2 doubles could change for the tournament.
The NLC tourney concludes Friday at Concord.