It took a little time, a lot of sweat and plenty of cheers. As the Warsaw tennis courts began to bake Saturday morning, the Lady Tigers broke down Columbia City, 4-1, to claim the Warsaw Girls Tennis Sectional title, its 12th in a row and 22nd overall, easing a lot of uneasy stomachs.
“Every year I am a nervous wreck when this thing starts,” began Warsaw head coach Rick Orban. “This is what we focus for from the very first day of the season. We’ve talked about it, 12 in a row is really special.
“They really focused for this, almost to the point at times, they put too much pressure on themselves. They played a little nervous today, once they got a few games under their belts, they played really smart tennis. They played Warsaw tennis.”
Stressing to his team not to overlook a Columbia city team it beat 4-1 in early April, Orban made sure his girls came out focused. The message was sent early as the one doubles team of Lindsay Sciarra and Olivia Wallin steamrolled Breanna Hicks and Sydney Ford in a shutout. The match, which lasted just over 45 minutes, was followed just moments later by Jacqueline Sasso, playing at two singles, working the same perfecto on Adrianna Brown.
“We just stayed really focused and had a goal to be the first ones off the court, but to do that we had to make our shots and play our game,” said Sciarra.
Added Wallin, “We wanted bagels and we got them.”
From there, Orban’s nerves began to pick up just a touch as his two doubles team of Mallory Bartel and Taylor Moore, which jumped out to a 3-0 lead in the first set, ran out of gas. Columbia City’s duo of Blake Farber and Macie Hinen, specifically Farber, ripped winner after winner to storm back to 6-6, forcing a tiebreaker. Warsaw lost serve and eventually dropped the tiebreaker, 7-3, and from there City grabbed its first court win at 6-1.
Focus then shifted squarely on the singles courts, where Sarah Boyle at three singles had to work, but would win her third straight match after moving from two to three. Playing power against June Ramos, Boyle ended the match on a huge running forehand winner to close a 6-2, 6-1 decision, locking up the team title.
While the match between number ones Sarah Hartle and Celine Ronogos rendered moot on the scoreboard, the two were playing for individual advancement. The match took on the persona of a title prize fight, with Ronogos running Hartle all over the court while Hartle fired back her best angle shots. Trailing 4-1 in the first set, Hartle battled all the way back to take a 6-5 lead and willed her way to a 7-5 first set. The will of the two, and the heat of the court, had Hartle on a knee at 2-1 in the second set, towel over her head, and mumbling in disgust.
From there, the four-time Northern Lakes Conference champion buckled down and put away Ronogos, 6-3, to take the court and guarantee a spot in the individual regional.
“Today was the toughest match I have had this year, mentally,” Hartle said. “It was a lot hotter today and after the first set my ankle really started to hurt. I knew I had to fight through it. I am an emotional player, everyone sees that, but I just had to stick to it.”
The team title, which Orban stated was the longest running streak of sectional championships of any program in school history, puts Warsaw (10-6) now on a collision course with a familiar foe in the Culver Academy Regional Tuesday night. Plymouth (10-7), the winner of the Bremen Sectional, awaits redemption after Warsaw knocked them off, 3-2, during the NLC season. The other semi-final at Culver Academy involves the hosts (9-8) against Manchester (13-4), with the winners to meet Wednesday night for a spot in the LaPorte Semistate. Culver Academy knocked off Warsaw, 4-1 on May 15, and the Lady Tigers did not face Manchester this season.
WARSAW GIRLS TENNIS SECTIONAL CHAMPIONSHIP
No. 1 Singles – Sarah Hartle (W) def. Celine Ronogos 7-5, 6-3
No. 2 Singles – Jacqueline Sasso (W) def. Adrianna Brown 6-0, 6-0
No. 3 Singles – Sarah Boyle (W) def. June Ramos 6-2, 6-1
No. 1 Doubles – Olviai Wallin/Lindsay Sciarra (W) def. Breanna Hicks/Sydney Ford 6-0, 6-0
No. 2 Doubles – Blake Farber/Macie Hinen (CC) def. Mallory Bartel/Taylor Moore 7-6 (7-3), 6-1