MISHAWAKA – It’s been somewhat of a painful start physically for the Warsaw boys tennis team early on this season.
That didn’t keep the undefeated Tigers from putting the hurt on Mishawaka Marian Monday.
The deep and talented Tigers stayed undefeated on the young season with a 4-1 win over the host Knights on a sweltering day.
Warsaw, which has seen a pair of its players deal with injuries, improved to 3-0 with the non-conference win. Marian drops to 2-4.
Senior Evan Miller, who went 20-2 last year at No. 2 singles, is now playing No. 1 doubles. Miller, who missed the first two matches, injured his right knee in a recent practice and was cleared to play on Friday. Miller, sporting a brace on his knee, teamed with junior Nic Jansen for a 6-4, 7-5 victory over junior David Hicks and senior Nick Gertzbaer at No. 1 doubles Monday. Miller and Jansen trailed 5-2 in the second set before winning the final five games.
Junior Sam Rice, who has earned the No. 1 singles spot for now in the Tigers’ strong lineup, recently tweaked his back. Rice, who played No. 1 doubles in 2012, dropped a 6-3, 6-2 final to stellar senior Jack Julien Monday. It was Rice’s first-ever prep match at No. 1 singles.
Rice has supplanted senior Kyle Wettschurack at the top singles position. Wettschurack, who has played No. 1 singles the past two years, rolled to a 6-1, 6-3 win at No. 2 versus the Knights.
“Sam has beat me every time in challenge matches and is doing really well and I can’t complain,” said Wettschurack Monday. “I don’t mind playing No. 2. It’s nice to get a lot of wins for the team. I’ll do anything to help us get to State this year.
“I try to keep the same mentality playing at No. 2 and just play my game. It’s hard sometimes because at No. 1 you always know you are playing a very good player. But, I’ll challenge Sam for the spot. It’s nice to be at the front. But, if he beats me he deserves it. He’s put in the time this summer.”
Miller, who admitted to being in a lot of pain after his match, played his first ever high school doubles match Monday.
“It’s fine and good,” said Miller of the move to doubles. “At first, they thought I had torn my meniscus and was going to be out for the season. I found out Friday that I can wear the brace and play.
“I just want to win. I think it probably makes us even better now with me at No. 1 doubles. Our No. 2 doubles team is unstoppable.”
Warsaw got a dominating display from its outstanding No. 2 doubles team Monday. Seniors Will Petro and Nikos Schlitt, who could play No. 1 for a whole lot of teams, rolled to a 6-0, 6-1 win over senior Patrick Yergler and junior Sam Cressy. Petro, who is also a key player for the outstanding Warsaw golf team, played No. 2 doubles a year ago.
The Tigers made it 2-0 when Wettschurack won and then clinched the win as junior Caleb Ray topped junior Zac Erickson 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Warsaw coach Rick Orban is blessed to have a deep roster to rely on. The Tigers have four regulars back from last year’s team that went 12-3 overall, including 7-0 to win the Northern Lakes Conference title and also claimed a sectional championship.
“Our lineup is still a work in progress and it will change,” said Orban. “There may be a different lineup tomorrow (Tuesday versus St. Joe). But my views have not changed from the preseason. I’m confident in this team. We are extremely deep and I have options. I have three more players fighting for varsity spots.
“Sam has won the challenge matches with Kyle, but I’m sure that Kyle will challenge him back. They are both great players and I’m okay with having either one of them at No. 1 or 2. Kyle was dominant tonight. Sam was nervous in his first match at No. 1.
“Caleb Ray is playing extremely well for us. When my No. 2 doubles are extremely aggressive, they play really well and are tough to beat. No. 1 doubles got down 5-2 and the life and focus came back for them. It’s just a better fit for Evan at No. 1 doubles. It utilizes his talents.”
Orban says a tough South Bend St. Joe team is sure to test his Tigers at home Tuesday.
“The St. Joe match will tell me a lot about my lineup and where we’re at,” Orban said. “They are very good. We are going to have to play better tomorrow than we did tonight or they will beat us. We’ll talk about that on the bus ride home. Trust me.”
Warsaw won all 10 junior varsity matches Monday. Andrew Gauger, David Homme, Tim Rata, Caleb DeBoest, Drew McCollom and Hudson Snyder won in singles play for the Tigers. Also winning were the doubles teams of Ryan Wettschurack and Christopher Herendeen, Cole Baker and Justin Stout, Chris Stichter and Wesley Shuler and Keeton Bartel and Jean-Luc Baldwin.
The Tigers host St. Joe Tuesday and open NLC play by hosting Elkhart Memorial on Thursday.