The short term result Wednesday night though was a 3-2 loss for the Tigers at the hands of the No. 10 Kingsmen.
The non-conference tussle at Penn, which was originally rained out on Aug. 13, saw plenty of terrific tennis played by a pair of previously unbeaten squads.
The Kingsmen, a state finalist in 2011, prevailed however on the strength of three dominating performances.
Orban, whose team falls to 2-1, saw plenty to like despite several of his players at less than full strength due to an illness making its way around WCHS.
The Tigers got close straight set wins from junior Evan Miller at No. 3 singles and from its No. 2 doubles duo of junior Will Petro and senior Connor Singrey.
Miller defeated senior Keon Jones 6-3, 7-6 (7-5) just before Petro and Singrey wrapped up a 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 victory over senior Connor McCarthy and junior Aiden Koch to conclude the match.
“Will and Connor did a lot of things right tonight,” said Orban. “I’m proud of the way they played. They did just about everything right, except struggling with their first serves. Evan played tough and as hard as he could. He’s not feeling well and didn’t have a lot of energy, but he’s a gamer.”
“All in all, I’m pleased. To lose 3-2 to a team like Penn right now, I’ll take that. Penn is very good. They are solid all around. They are always a strong team. That’s why we have them on our schedule. My concern is on the postseason. A match like this shows you where you’re at and exposes your weaknesses.”The host Kingsmen, who graduated three starters from its 17-5 team of a year ago, took just over an hour to showcase their strengths and win the first three points of the match.
Star sophomore Michael Wang set the tone for the Kingsmen at No. 1 singles. The lanky Wang, who boasts a ferocious forehand, topped junior Kyle Wettschurack 6-1, 6-0 in 49 minutes. Penn took a 2-0 lead just one minute later as senior Victor Lu wrapped up a 6-1, 6-1 win over senior AJ Jansen at No. 2 singles. The Kingsmen wrapped up the team win as its outstanding No. 1 doubles team of senior Brad Walter and junior Sean Anderson defeated senior AJ Herendeen and sophomore Sam Rice 6-3, 6-2 in 1:03.
Walter and Anderson have posted a 46-4 mark to pace Penn the last two years. The dynamic duo placed fourth at State in 2010.
“We knew it would be an uphill battle at No. 1 and 2 tonight,” Orban said. “Yang is an incredible player. He’s extremely tough. Their No. 1 doubles team is very solid. They work very well together as a team and control the net. I thought that AJ and Sam were flat tonight. They just did not have energy out there and did not play their game.”
Warsaw has six of its top seven players back from last year’s 8-6 squad. Herendeen and Rice advanced to the regional finals for No. 1 doubles teams in 2011.
Penn, the prohibitive favorite to win the Northern Indiana Conference title again this fall, is now 3-0 with all of its wins versus Northern Lakes Conference teams. The Kingsmen blanked Northridge 5-0 Saturday and topped Concord 3-2 Tuesday.
“We are awfully strong right now at three spots, but we still have areas that we need to improve on,” said Penn coach Eric Bowers, who is now 34-8 in his third season at PHS. “Michael played greg tonight. He’s improved a lot. He’s figuring out his game and I like the way he’s playing. He has some major weapons in his game.
“Our No. 1 doubles team has been first-team All-State the past two years. They have some high goals this year. They just show up each day, whether it’s at practice or a match. And Victor Lu is playing very well at No. 2 for us. Warsaw is a good team. I always look forward to playing them.”
Bowers, a 1998 NorthWood High School grad, laughed when asked should his team receive an NLC trophy due to its early-season success against the league.
“I would take it if they want to give it to me,” said Bowers with a smile. “It would be my first. I never won one when I played at NorthWood.”
Penn won the JV contest Wednesday by claiming victories in all 11 matches.
Warsaw (2-1) opens NLC play at Elkhart Memorial Thursday. Penn (3-0) starts NIC action by hosting Elkhart Central Thursday.