Tippecanoe Valley, which beat Whitko yesterday to open the bracket, gave Warsaw a fight before the favored Tigers showed its mettle in a 4-1 victory. Wawasee, which were the overwhelming underdogs of the tournament having won just once all season, made Columbia City work before conceding, 5-0, to the Eagles.
Valley did have reason to smile despite being eliminated when No. 1 singles player Nick Kindig won his match against Warsaw’s Kyle Wettschurack 7-5, 6-3, holding off a very spirited rally from Wettschurack in the second set. With all of the other courts having already been decided, Kindig dug down to ensure himself at least a chance to continue his senior season.
“This feels really good because Warsaw is so good and they usually send their entire team through,” Kindig said following his match. “I just tried to keep him off balance and keep sending shots deep. It worked out. I’m happy to still be playing.”
Kindig is guaranteed to get another match for the second year in a row, also having qualified last year. Whether that match is Tuesday in the regional or Tuesday against Columbia City’s Derek Hinen is still to be determined. With Hinen beating Wawasee’s Kyler Love 6-1, 6-3, in the other one singles match, if Hinen wins tomorrow against Wettschurack in the team tournament, Kindig and Hinen will have a playoff Tuesday at Culver Academy. If Wettschurack beats Hinen, Kindig will move into the regional without interference.
Warsaw, on the other hand, made no bones about gathering the remaining courts against Valley to secure a spot in the team finals.
Needing just under 40 minutes, the Tigers had three courts in hand and won the fourth not much later. Leading the charge was the one doubles team of AJ Herendeen and Sam Rice, which tore apart Clayton Adamson and Derrick Cunningham 6-0, 6-0.
Methodical and businesslike as they have been all season, Will Petro and Connor Singrey made the two doubles match look similar to most of theirs this season, winning 6-0, 6-1 against Robby Groom and Logan Britton.
Alek Jansen and Evan Miller also continued their strong singles play for the Tigers. Jansen overmatched Isaac Shewman 6-2, 6-1 and Miller was fluid once again, taking out Tanner Neeley 6-1, 6-0.
“We talked before the match that we knew we didn’t have to play great to win, but we still wanted to win and get off the courts,” Warsaw head coach Rick Orban said. “Alek Jansen played really well, just good, solid tennis. Both doubles teams looked very strong, I was very happy to see that.
“All in all, it was a good win, pretty pleased with it and I liked the way we looked out there. I’ll be excited to see what happens tomorrow.”
Valley’s team season concludes with a 6-9 record, but with the Kindig result, head coach Matt Mobley wasn’t complaining at all.
“Really proud of Nick, he worked hard in that second set to pull it out, that’s just great for him,” Mobley said. “Even though the scores did not reflect it, I thought our boys made Warsaw earn every point. That’s all I could ask for, I knew how well Warsaw has been playing, how well coached they are and how talented they are. I was proud of our guys coming out and competing with them.”
Columbia City had a pair of quick hits in its showdown with Wawasee. Playing on the far end of the tennis complex, Drew Benedict steadied the course to muscle past Todd Hauser 6-2, 6-1.
The two doubles tandem of Mason Coverstone and Daniel Woll played their game and capitalized on a bevy of errors from Doug Hapner and Rozen Kunkle in a 6-0, 6-2 result.
Hinen’s victory capped the team win, and a hard-fought 6-4, 6-4 victory by Niko Rongos over Chase Myers at two singles showed City meant business.
The agony of defeat was best shown in the one doubles match. Dylan Houser writhed with every missed shot and Isaac Rigdon slowly came to the realization his career was coming to an end as City’s Blake Fearnow and Austin Paul outlasted the Wawasee duo 6-4, 6-3, which appeared closer than the score indicated. But as the two Warriors sat stunned courtside following the loss, the bitterness began to set in on a very long season.
“You can tell from the time we started until now, we have made some huge improvements,” said Wawasee head coach Roger Brady, whose team concludes 1-15 overall. “We were just so far behind in the first place that, we are now competitive, but the season is over.
“Columbia City is a good team, but they aren’t up there with the top teams in our conference,” Brady continued. “We did some great things, like Chase having never played competitive tennis but almost took his kid to three sets. One doubles did a great job, Kyler did a great job. I’m just happy with where they came from to today.”
Friday afternoon, Warsaw (10-2) and Columbia City (10-10) will reacquaint for the second time this season with a title on the line. Warsaw won the first meeting, 5-0, back on Aug. 15, but City are holding the bragging rights as the defending champion, which was won on the Warsaw courts last September. Orban has been adamant, and will continue through first serve tomorrow, about what is at stake.
“I’ll be talking about that with them in about two minutes,” said Orban with a smile as his team huddled on the court behind him during the postgame press. “Tomorrow, I’ll have plenty of time to talk to them before the match. Make sure they are focused on this match tomorrow. We should have won the last two years, and we lost two years in a row. I’ll have plenty of things to talk about.”