WARSAW – The Penn boys’ tennis team proved very worthy of its’ No. 22 ranking Monday.
The Kingsmen started a big week off on the right foot with a 4-1 win over host Warsaw in a makeup match.
Penn, which beat the Tigers 3-2 a year ago, lost a total of just 15 games on the four courts they won Monday.
Warsaw coach Rick Orban saw his talented team drop to 7-4 on the season. The Tigers, who are still tinkering with their lineup, have lost to No. 21 South Bend St. Joseph, No. 17 Crown Point and Culver Academy.
“Penn is a good team, solid and there’s a reason they are ranked where they are,” said Orban. “But, I think we are a better team than we showed tonight. I thought we would win at No. 2 and No. 3 singles and have an outside chance at doubles.
“I’m still fine tuning our lineup and probably will until the NLC Tournament next week. I’m sure there will be a different lineup for us Tuesday (for an NLC match at Wawasee). We have the ability. I’m more concerned about our confidence right now.”
Michael Yang set the tone for the Kingsmen. The lanky junior showed why he is among the top players around with a 6-0, 6-2 win over Warsaw junior Sam Rice at No. 1 singles. Yang is one of two returnees from last year’s varsity lineup that went 17-3 and lost 3-2 to Valparaiso in a regional final.
“Michael is an extremely good player, one of the best in the state,” offered Orban, whose team lost in a regional final to Culver Academies 4-1 in 2012. “I thought that Sam played very well. His footwork was really good.”
Penn made it 2-0 on the night when its’ No. 1 doubles team of seniors Sean Anderson and Aidan Koch completed their 6-0, 6-3 win over senior Kyle Wettschurack and junior Nic Jansen.
The Kingsmen clinched the win as junior Jacob Macri defeated senior Will Petro 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Penn won the No. 2 doubles match as freshman Mason Lee and junior Brendan Butler topped senior Nikos Schlitt and freshman Justin Stout 6-2, 6-1.
Warsaw’s win came at No. 3 singles from Evan Miller. The senior, who also won at that spot versus Penn last year, beat freshman Stewart Feeley 7-5, 6-3.
“Evan played a solid match for us and I was pretty proud of Justin in his first varsity match for us, playing No. 2 doubles tonight,” Orban said.
Penn coach Eric Bowers did not want his team to lose twice in less than a week on the WCHS courts. The Kingsmen dropped a 3-2 final to Marion last Wednesday in a match played at Warsaw. Penn’s other loss this season was a 3-2 final to Crown Point.
“This is test one in a week where we will find out where we are at,” said Bowers, who guided Penn to the State Finals in 2011. “I’m happy with how we did tonight. Since last Wednesday, we’re moving in a better direction.
“We lost five players from last year (four graduated and one moved), to we came into the season with some inexperience. But, we have guys who are used to winning who have stepped in.
“Year in and year out Warsaw is a tough opponent for us. It’s always a match I like and I’m glad they are on our schedule.”
Yang has just one loss on the season and Anderson has been a four-year star at doubles for the Kingsmen.
“Michael is playing real well and he’s one of the better players north of Carmel in the state,” said Bowers. “He’s playing much smarter now and setting up points. When his serve is on, he’s tough to break and I like my chances to win at No. 1 singles. Sean has been with me for four years and I can count on one hand the number of matches he’s lost in the regular season. No. 2 doubles tonight was a pleasant surprise. I’m really happy with them.”
Penn plays Northern Indiana Conference foe South Bend Washington Tuesday before a huge league match with No. 21 South Bend St. Joseph Thursday. The Kingsmen then play Culver Academies and No. 4 Fort Wayne Canterbury on Saturday at Canterbury.
Warsaw is missing a key piece to its puzzle in Caleb Ray. The junior fractured his right wrist while diving for a ball during a 3-2 home loss to Culver Academies on Sept. 4. Ray was playing at No. 2 doubles at the time. Orban said he would be surprised if Ray can return to action this season.
The Tigers, who are the defending Northern Lakes Conference champions, are still 4-0 in league play. Warsaw plays at Wawasee Tuesday, hosts NorthWood Thursday and hosts Concord Sept. 23 to finish the NLC regular season. The NLC Tourney is Sept. 25, 26 and 28.
“The NLC is big for us, but the sectional and the regional are huge,” commented Orban.
Penn won the junior varsity action 9-5 Monday. Ryan Wettschurack led the JV Tigers with a win at No. 1 singles. Also winning for Warsaw were its doubles teams of Drew McCollom and Chris Stichter, Wesley Shuler and Keeton Bartol, Graham Ousley and Mario Hernandez and Evan Ousley and Hayden Steger.