WARSAW – The Warsaw girls tennis team, cast in a new and very unfamiliar role for postseason play, got on a roll of their own the last three nights.
The Tigers, sectional underdogs, found their confidence and consistency to dispel the doubters to claim the program’s 13th straight sectional championship.
Host Warsaw, which won just one match during a tough regular season, capped off the first step in the state tournament Friday night with a quick and efficient 4-1 win over NLC and county rival Wawasee.
The Tigers, whose lone win of the regular season was a 5-0 victory at Wawasee back on April 25, improves to 4-10. Warsaw will meet NLC foe Plymouth on Tuesday in a semifinal match of the Culver Academies Regional. The winner returns for the regional final on Wednesday.
Plymouth (14-4) beat Triton 5-0 Friday in the sectional final at Bremen. The Pilgrims topped the Tigers 5-0 on April 16.
Warsaw had the team title in hand in just about 45 minutes Friday as they lost a total of just four games on their four winning courts.
No one for the champions was more confident and consistent in sectional play than Lindsay Sciarra. The No. 3 singles player for the Tigers won all three of her sectional matches by 6-0, 6-0 scores.
Sciarra, who was moved into the singles lineup just on May 2 from No. 2 doubles, is the epitome of determination. The senior, one of three for the Tigers, could have her photo in Webster’s for the words tough and courageous. Sciarra has had to endure six different surgeries on her right leg, including a procedure last summer where they broke her femur and inserted a rod into her leg. She will have surgery on the left leg this coming summer.
“This was really important to us,” said Sciarra. “Not only for the history of winning 13 in a row, but we worked so hard this year and it was a growing, tough season.
“We had to be focused and prove to ourselves and others we were capable of winning this.”
Sciarra admitted she was not sure at first about the move to No. 3 singles.
“I haven’t played this position since freshman year and I didn’t know if I was capable of it with everything health wise,” said Sciarra. “Coach told me I could do it and I believe in myself. I’m okay with it now. It’s all right.
“I just try to stay really determined out there and try my best and leave it all on the court. You never know when it will be your last match. It’s okay though because I’m all right. People have it a lot worse than I do.”
Sciarra defeated Wawasee junior Priscilla Par 6-0, 6-0 just as the Warsaw No. 1 doubles team of seniors Olivia Wallin and Marley Smith were finishing up a 6-2, 6-0 win over sophomore Jada Antonides and junior Sam Prins at No. 1 doubles.
The Tigers notched the team win a few moments later as junior Jacqueline Sasso defeated junior Katy Ashpole 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. The final point for Warsaw came as sophomore Camille Kerlin and freshman Rosalia Fleming beat sophomores Natalie Fritz and Molly Smith 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“No. 13 was definitely in doubt and to see the kid’s confidence come back and them to pull it out, I’m extremely pleased,” said Warsaw coach Rick Orban. “It’s been an interesting year. I think I finally got to their pride on Wednesday and that seemed like what it would take.
“They are on an incredible roll right now. It’s cool to see their confidence come back this late in the season. To stay as focused as they did the last two nights (in beating Tippecanoe Valley and Wawasee) after beating Columbia City 3-2 the way we did on Wednesday night, I’m extremely pleased with that.”
The news was not all bad for Wawasee, which finishes its season 5-9.
The third time for Esther Hermann proved to be the charm for the Warrior junior. Hermann, a foreign exchange student from Germany, played an impressive match to defeat junior Sarah Boyle in straight sets by a 6-2, 6-1 count at No. 1 singles.
Hermann, who won 6-1, 6-1 on Thursday night in a 3-2 semifinal win over Whitko, advances on in the individual portion of the state tournament series for undefeated No. 1 singles players.
Hermann and Boyle had played a pair of times prior to Friday night. Boyle won 6-2, 6-4 on April 25 and then Hermann prevailed 6-3, 6-0 at the NLC Tourney on May 11.
“I’m really happy that I will get to experience regionals here in America,” said Hermann. “It was surprising when I beat her in the NLC tourney. I wasn’t expecting it. I knew I could today.
“I knew what I had to do from the last match. I had to be patient, not make many mistakes and get my serve in.”
Hermann related that back home she plays club tennis all year round, but only a couple of times per week and on clay and sand courts.
“I’m not one of the best players in Germany,” explained Hermann. “I’m in the middle.”
Wawasee coach Chris Winters was understandably pleased with the performance of Hermann.
“She played a great match,” said Winters. “She did exactly what she needed to do and that was be patient, take things slow and be consistent. It was huge confidence booster for her to win in the NLC tourney to see that she was capable of this.
“Warsaw did what they needed to tonight. Credit Warsaw.”
“Hermann is a very good player and she played a very good match,” Orban said. “She just stayed so consistent.”
The Tigers face a familiar foe in Plymouth. The Pilgrims, like the Tigers, have won 13 straight sectional titles. Warsaw now has 23 sectional championships overall, while Plymouth’s count is up to 29. A year ago at Culver Academies, Warsaw topped Plymouth 3-2 in a regional semifinal before losing 4-1 to the host Eagles in the final.
Warsaw lost 5-0 at Plymouth back on April 16 in the NLC opener. The Pilgrims won four of the five matches in straight sets, but Orban has a much different lineup in place now. Only the No. 1 doubles team of Wallin and Smith is the same from that earlier match with the Pilgrims.
“We’re huge underdogs Tuesday,” said Orban with a straight face. “Plymouth is a great team and probably much better than we are. We have to strike early Tuesday and take away their confidence.
“But, I don’t believe we will lose 5-0 this time.”