A season-ending loss to Culver Girls Academy in a regional final Wednesday did nothing to alter the affection coach Rick Orban had for his Warsaw girls tennis team this season.
Orban watched his gutty team, which battled through injury after injury all spring, drop a 4-1 final to the hosts.
Culver Academy (11-7) advances to the LaPorte Semistate Saturday to play No. 4 Penn (18-1) at 10 a.m. CT. Penn blanked No. 11 Chesterton 5-0 Wednesday to win the LaPorte Regional championship.
Warsaw finishes a remarkable season which saw the Tigers finish second in the Northern Lakes Conference and win a 12th straight sectional championship at 11-7.
“I’m just thrilled with the season we had,” said coach Orban in a phone interview Wednesday night after the regional match. “The girls overachieved all season. They adapted and just did a great job. What a special team they were. I think about what they accomplished and it’s Wow. They were so mentally tough.”
Warsaw had significant injuries to a number of players this spring, including Sarah Hartle, Sarah Boyle and Lindsay Sciarra. Hartle played through a painful stress fracture in her Achilles all season long and still managed to finish her prep career 40-0 in the NLC.
Hartle, who lost 6-4, 6-3 Wednesday at No. 1 singles, is the lone senior for the Tigers. She will play golf at Holy Cross College next year.
“Not having Sarah next year is a huge loss for us,” said Orban. “She was just a great leader. Her desire to be the leader of this team her senior season allowed her to play through a lot of pain. She’s just a wonderful kid.”
Juniors Sciarra and Olivia Wallin gave Warsaw its point Wednesday with a dominating 6-0, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles.
“They just did an incredible job,” said Orban of his top doubles duo. “They came out tonight and just dominated from the beginning. They never let up.”
Sophomore Jacqueline Sasso lost 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles and classmate Sarah Boyle dropped a 6-1, 7-6 (7-1) final at No. 3 singles. Sophomores Taylor Moore and Abbi Baum lost 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“No. 2 doubles never gave up and I was really proud of them,” Orban said. “All of our kids did their best and that’s all you can ask as a coach. They refused to give up and were never discouraged tonight.”
CGA, which won its fourth regional title Wednesday, beat Warsaw also by a 4-1 final in a regular-season match at WCHS May 15. The Tigers used a completely different lineup in that contest than they did Wednesday night in the regional finale.