SOUTH WHITLEY – Approaching three hours into the boys tennis marathon Tuesday night, two boys made 12 others continuously gasp.
In the end, after two hours and 58 minutes of non-stop tennis, Wawasee’s Cal Heinisch put an end to the drama, closing the door on a third-set thriller that gave his team a 3-2 win over host Whitko.
Heinisch outlasted Whitko’s Cole Bechtold 7-5, 5-7, 6-4 in a match that looked innocent enough at the start, but morphed into quite the grudge match as time wore on. As both teams assembled around the three singles court on the northeastern edge of the tennis complex, the 2-2 tie between the teams made the match all the more enticing. Whitko were looking for its first court win of the season; Wawasee looking to grab some momentum heading into the bulk of its Northern Lakes Conference buzzsaw.
“I just started serving a lot better and my returns were getting better. I also knew he was getting tired,” started Heinisch after the match. Aware he was the winning or losing team point, Heinisch claimed he didn’t feel the pressure. “It actually made it easier, because I knew my teammates would be rooting for me. I knew we needed another one.”
The rally by Bechtold in the second set, which matched the patterns of the first set win by Heinisch, gave way to a huge spurt by the Wawasee sophomore to start the third set. An ace to end the fourth game put Heinisch up 4-0, to which Bechtold answered with a game. Heinisch and Bechtold both scored a pair of aces on service, Bechtold needing his to stay alive at 5-2, then taking the next two games. Wear began to show on Heinisch as Bechtold held true on three separate deuces at 5-3.
Heinisch dug deep to end it, scoring all four points on service, ending on an unforced error from the Whitko junior, who dropped his racquet helplessly in disgust as the net wrapped around the errant shot.
“Cole is conditioned very well, and that helps him keep going,” stated Whitko head coach Tera Castle. “It’s Cole’s first year playing singles, so it’s something new for him. I think he played really well despite the loss. A lot of his errors were mental errors on his part. He just got out of his form, on his overhead volleys he wasn’t where he needed or should be.”
In order for the drama, Wawasee needed to win its two doubles court to stay alive after Whitko took the one and two singles courts.
The two doubles team of Jake Hutchinson and Doug Hapner were pushed much harder than originally expected by Nic Rose and Bailey Platt, losing the first set 3-6, but regaining form for a 6-2, 6-0 win to close out the court that took over two hours to complete.
Wawasee’s one doubles made up the other victory, with Dylan Houser and Chase Myers the first off the court Tuesday with a 6-1, 6-0 victory against Reed Brace and Alex Bechtold.
Whitko had a pair of fine outings on the singles circuit, led by a 6-1, 6-0 showing by two singles Blake Castle. Maintaining function and focus amongst a tough service afternoon by Todd Hauser, Castle used a big forehand to speed up the pace.
At one singles, Tyler Baugher looked in midseason form in outpowering Kyler Love in a 6-3, 6-3 result. Baugher’s baseline rallies resulted in fewer mistakes than Love’s, but Love’s ability to adlib during long rallies made the match the most visually appealing save for the three singles third set.
“Tyler was moving the ball all over the court really well,” Castle said. “He just outlasted him pointwise. Each point, mentally he was there.”
For the Warriors, a 4-2 start to the season will do as non-conference opponents will make way for the NLC grid. A result like Tuesday’s can only help, according to Warrior head coach Vince Rhodes.
“We are going to have to step up our games,” Rhodes said. “We need to get Kyler working on some net play. We really need to work on our first serve. That killed us all night tonight, the first serve. We got away with it at times, but they will find out against clubs like NorthWood, Northridge and Warsaw that you can’t do that. They are all hard hitters. You have to come to play or they will put you away quickly.”
Whitko, with just a forfeit win against Columbia City standing against its three losses, will look to regroup as it hosts Triton Thursday while Wawasee will host Concord, also Thursday.