Locally, Warsaw were looking to win the NLC title outright after sweeping the round robin season unblemished. On the other hand, Wawasee were looking for any ticket out of the cellar, having not won a match in conference play.
The Tigers put themselves in position to battle for the title, going 4-1 on the afternoon. The Concord Minutemen, which went 6-1 in the NLC round robin and lost to Warsaw just two days ago, also went 4-1. A key matchup came at three singles, where Warsaw’s Alek Jansen beat Concord’s Jack Hinkle right out of the chute, 6-1, 6-3 in one of the first matches of the tournament.
Warsaw’s lone loss was one of the last played Wednesday, where Plymouth’s Gabe Vervynckt steadied the course to roll past Kyle Wettschurack 6-4, 6-0.
Neither match, however, changed the outlook of Warsaw coach Rick Orban.
“It’s going to be interesting,” Orban stated. “We did take out Concord’s three singles, so that helps. The kids are going to have to come in and play well tomorrow. Our plan doesn’t change. We still need to play great tennis to win this thing.”
Jansen was joined in the winner’s bracket by Evan Miller at two singles, who blew past NorthWood’s Quinn Stillson 6-2, 6-0.
“Evan played really solid, he lost a couple games he shouldn’t have lost, but he still played well,” Orban said. “Alek Jansen played extremely well. He is coming along.”
The one doubles team of Sam Rice and AJ Herendeen started hot against Wawasee’s Dylan Houser and Isaac Rigdon, winning the first set 6-1 and while sliding a little in the second set, yet still won 6-4.
Will Petro and Connor Singrey at two doubles for Warsaw also started out fast against Jon Bailey and Stephen Tefft of Memorial, and despite the squeaky clean 6-0, 6-0 scoreline, won while working in some additional strategy directed by Orban in preparation for the final two rounds of the tournament.
Added Orban, “All in all, I’m not disappointed with anyone. When you can go 4-1 in the conference tourney, I’ll take that.”
Wawasee head coach Roger Brady was still optimistic despite his squad losing all five of its courts in straight sets. Brady was particularly pleased with the one doubles team taking Warsaw deep in the second set, and with his one singles player, Kyler Love, fighting until the end of a 6-4 6-3 result with Mazin Hakim of Memorial.
“My number ones really played well today,” Brady said. “Kyler had a real chance to win today. One doubles also played well, going 6-4 against Warsaw that beat them one and one last time. Mentally, we picked it up. There were really no mental lapses today, just play. They are better teams than we are, but we made them play.”
The remaining courts for Wawasee had Chase Myers at two singles lose to Concord’s Matt Kovka love and two. Hudson Kay of Goshen beat Todd Hauser love and one in the three singles bracket. Finally, in the two doubles bracket, Plymouth’s Kameron Eisenhour and Ryan Johnson made quick work of Roz Kunkle and Doug Hapner, winning love and love.
“My comment to the kids, tomorrow is the most important day,” Brady said. “We are either going to play for fifth, or are we going to play for seventh. We are the worst team in the conference, having not won a match. How cool would it be for us to be playing for seventh, sixth or even fifth place? For us, we feel that can happen, so tomorrow is going to be very important.”
Play continues tomorrow at 4:30 p.m. at Concord with semi-finals matches and bracket play. Saturday’s matches will begin at 9 a.m., also at Concord, with championship courts and placement matches. The team standings will be determined based on points from court placement.