SYRACUSE — An air of relief came over the often stoic face of Rick Orban between crisp whips of cold wind at Wawasee High School Thursday night.
As a brisk crosswind whipped through the WHS tennis courts, Orban’s smile warmed his Warsaw team just a little bit as the Lady Tigers finally picked up a win, 5-0, against rival Wawasee in girls tennis.
“It’s huge for the girls,” Orban stated on picking up the first win after losing its first four duals of the season. “Their confidence was kind of down. Coming into tonight, I knew it would be close at one and two singles. I assumed we would win at three singles with Rachael feeling better and one doubles and two doubles. Which we did, but to have a 5-0 win for the team is huge. It really is.”
It took just over 45 minutes for Warsaw to win its first court, a two and three win by the one doubles team of Olivia Wallin and Marley Smith against Sam Prins and Jada Antonides. The cross court cuts by Smith combined with the power plays from Wallin were too much, as Wallin smashed home winners and used a huge serve to confound the Wawasee counterparts.
“I loved it,” Orban said of his one doubles play. “One thing we haven’t done a lot of this year is attack the net. Put volleys away. And its just been a confidence thing. Tonight I told Olivia to go after everything, don’t back off. If you miss a shot, I don’t care, just keep going for it. She did it, she had fun. You could see her smiling again. Marley played really nice angle volleys.”
Two doubles were next off the court, a three and love win by Lindsay Sciarra and Mallory Bartel over Ashley Larson and Natalie Fritz.
What made Orban smile more were the way his singles courts played, despite needing some extra time to get there. Jacqueline Sasso closed the team win with a 6-2, 7-5 final over a pesky Katy Ashpole in the two singles matchup. Ashpole was far from a pushover, forcing Sasso all over the court and returning what looked like easy Sasso winners back into play. Sasso just more sass, if you will.
Ending nearly in the same frame of time was the one singles court, a two and four win by Sarah Boyle over Esther Hermann in what matched the two singles court in competition. Hermann went stroke for stroke with Boyle, but just couldn’t get any rhythm against Warsaw’s lead dog.
“I think for our girls it’s just believing they can be in these matches,” Wawasee head coach Chris Winters said. “Today, I think they got a taste that, ‘you know what, I can be in this match.’ I could see their countenance and their confidence building. Taking the small ways that they did improve today. You keep at that. And they are right there with a lot of these conference schools.
“We are not that far off the mark from being able to turn some of these matches into three sets and winners.”
Rachael Alexander closed out the big night for the visitors with a one and three win on the three singles grid against Priscilla Par. Orban was particularly happy with Alexander, who is still on the comeback trail after suffering a severe thumb injury just before the start of the season.
“Rachael was able to hit both forehand and backhand,” Orban said. “That was huge tonight. She played a gal that hasn’t played a lot of tennis. But it was important to get the win and get the confidence. Same with our one and two doubles teams.”
Winters was not displeased in the least with her squad, who have only scored eight court wins against Warsaw in the past 11 seasons, which Warsaw has won all 11 regular season matchups and the past 11 sectional titles.
“I told the girls even though the scores don’t reflect that they won, I was pleased with their performance,” Winters said. “They played right with them. A lot of those games ended up Warsaw winning the games, but they were at deuce at lots of those games. Which tells me we are right there.”
Warsaw won all five of the scored JV matches against Wawasee.
In singles play, Blake Findlay beat Jaclyn Miller 8-3, Mattie Doran won 8-1 over Chelsea Carolus, Shelby Roberts scored an 8-1 win over Molly Smith and Camille Kerlin registerd an 8-0 shutout of Brooke Fick. In the lone doubles match, Anna Hall and Abbi Baum paired for an 8-0 win against Katie Kuhn and Jazlyn Gehlhausen.
Warsaw (1-4, 1-2 NLC) will host Elkhart Memorial tomorrow, and Wawasee (2-4, 0-3 NLC) will also be in action Friday, visiting Northridge in a pair of rain make-up matches.