WARSAW – Coach Rick Orban preached to his Warsaw boys tennis team from day one this season the importance of winning the sectional championship.
His oft repeated message in the end made sure there would be no repeat performance Friday by Columbia City.
The Tigers, who were upset by the Eagles in last year’s sectional finale, brought home the hardware in impressive fashion this time around.
Warsaw claimed straight set wins at four positions, clinching the team title with the first three in under an hour, in topped the Eagles 4-1.
The Tigers claim the 25th sectional title in program history and improve to 11-2 on the season. The Eagles, who lost 5-0 at Warsaw back on Aug. 15, finish 10-11.
Warsaw advances to the Culver Academies Regional Tuesday. The Tigers play the winner of the Peru Sectional in one semifinal Tuesday. Wabash faces Peru Saturday at 10 a.m. in the finals at Peru. The other semifinal pits the Bremen Sectional winner versus the Culver Academies Sectional winner. The championship is set for Wednesday with the winner advancing to the Culver Academies Semistate Oct. 6.
Orban watched as his veteran team left nothing to chance Friday. The Tigers won five straight sectional titles from 2005-09 before losing to Wawasee in 2010 and Columbia City in 2011, both by 3-2 counts in the sectional title tilts.
“I’m delighted for our kids,” said Orban. “We wanted this one. I really did feel we were the best team the last two years. The sectional is important to me. We’ve talked about it constantly this year. I’ve preached winning it from day one.
“The motivation was there for us. The guys knew what it felt like last year and they were not going to lose this year. I know I took it personal. I hate losing in the postseason. Columbia City took it to us last year. They are a class program and have a great coach.”The Tigers wasted no time in taking command Friday. Senior Alek Jansen picked up the first win of the evening with a 6-0, 6-2 victory over senior Drew Benedict at No. 3 singles. Jansen completed his match in just 47 minutes.
“We came ready to win today,” said Jansen. “It’s a confidence thing. The last two years we were really young and this year we have a lot more experience. We knew if we played well we would win, so I don’t think there was as much pressure this year. I knew if I played my game, I was confident I would win. It feels good to play our best and win.”
Warsaw clinched the win as both of its doubles teams claimed victories within minutes of each other. The No. 2 tandem of senior Connor Singrey and junior Will Petro made it 2-0 with a 6-1, 6-3 win over senior Daniel Woll and sophomore Mason Coverstone. The clinching point came at No. 1 doubles as senior AJ Herendeen and sophomore Sam Rice defeated senior Austin Paul and junior Blake Fearnow, also by a 6-1, 6-3 final.The Tigers made it 4-0 as junior Evan Miller topped freshman Nico Rongos 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. The Eagles got their lone point when senior Derek Hinen rallied to defeat junior Kyle Wettschurack at No. 1 singles. Hinen, who lost 7-5, 6-3 to Wettschurack in the regular season, outlasted him 3-6, 7-5, 6-1 in a match that took 2:20 to complete.
“Evan played very solid and stayed within himself and Alek has really turned it on and played very smart today,” Orban said of his No. 2 and 3 singles players. “I was thrilled with our No. 1 doubles. They played extremely well with some of the things I asked them to work on. Our No. 2 was like always, steady. Kyle has struggled all year against players with no pace.”
Warsaw could meet a familiar foe in the regional final in the hosts. The Tigers dropped a 4-1 decision to No. 14 Culver Academies during the regular season.
“Our kids should have a lot of confidence going into the regional,” said Orban. “We’ll talk about focus, eliminating unforced errors and playing smart tennis as we prepare for it. If we play smart, we have a shot versus anyone.”
Warsaw’s last regional championship came in 2007.