PLYMOUTH – The first round of the Northern Lakes Conference boys tennis tournament began Wednesday afternoon in Plymouth with eight teams hinging high hopes on momentum gained. For Warsaw, its spirits are in full bloom while Wawasee are looking for silver linings.
The Tigers started its quest for the NLC title with a huge performance from all five of its courts, delivering five wins. On the other hand, the Warriors fell victim to five losses and no better than fifth place ahead.
Spearheading Warsaw’s quest to break a three-way round robin tie in the conference was the two doubles tandem of Caleb Ray and Nic Jansen. Taking the court in the first wave of matches, Jansen and Ray were able to build confidence in a 6-2, 6-4 win over Concord’s Riley Huffer and Mitchell Lozier. Ray was playing in just his fifth match this season after battling through injuries throughout the first two months. The Minutemen pair entered the tournament having just beaten Warsaw Monday night in the dual match, but this time around, it was the Tigers’ turn. Ray did not play for Warsaw versus Concord Monday night in a 3-2 loss.
Concord, which tied Warsaw and Plymouth with 6-1 records in the NLC, had its title hopes take a huge hit when its one doubles team also lost Wednesday night. Plymouth had all five of its courts win, making the two doubles win for Warsaw big, according to head coach Rick Orban.
“The bizarre thing is, Monday night we lost to a better team that night,” Orban said, referring to the Concord match. “We were pretty excited to see the draw at two doubles knowing we would get another shot at Concord. Their confidence level is there, Caleb is a strong player and he and Nic get along really well. The one thing they said was, ‘We will win tonight, coach.’ To be able to turn that around in two nights is pretty cool. That should help us in the next two days.”
Warsaw’s one doubles team concluded the night with Nikos Schlitt and Will Petro outsmarting a very game duo from Northridge in Clay Schnell and Ted Field two and two.
All three of Warsaw’s singles courts won quickly in straight sets, led by No. 3 singles top-seed Evan Miller, a love and three winner over NorthWood’s Ryan Menzie. The match lasted barely 40 minutes. Kyle Wettschurack had no trouble running Northridge’s Austin Schmidt around in a love and love final. Sam Rice started out very hot in a 6-0 first set over Hudson Kay, and held on for a 6-4 final in the second set.
Rice and Wettschurack will get another crack at Concord opponents that beat them Monday, Rice drawing Nick Pollack and Wettschurack will meet Bernardo Cardario. Miller will face Luke Rush of Goshen.
The Tiger one doubles will see Plymouth and two doubles will match up with Goshen.
“Sam and Kyle have to play Concord tomorrow, and they are the two top seeds,” Orban said. “Sometimes you get real lucky on a draw, and sometimes you don’t. No matter what happens, you still have to beat the opponent you are playing. But to go 5-0 tonight is a wonderful thing, it really is.”
Wawasee will look to make the most of its opportunities in the loser’s bracket after an O’fer Wednesday.
Kyler Love lost to one singles top-seed Josh Garfein of Northridge one and one despite hitting with the ace for much of the matchup. Todd Hauser fell into old habits of unforced errors in a one and love loss to John Gerard of Plymouth. Luke Smith, playing just his third singles match this season filling in for an injured Cal Heinisch, hung around with Concord’s Jared Searer before falling two and three.
The doubles courts were just as frustrating for Wawasee, with Jake Hutchinson and Doug Hapner losing to the Troyer’s – Logan and Zach – of Goshen two and two at two doubles while Chase Myers and Dylan Houser kept pace with Plymouth’s big hitters Matt Flynn and Max Holloway for a while before losing three and one.
Second round matches for Wawasee will have Love meet NorthWood’s Mitchell Keiser, Hauser to face Tristen Singleton of Memorial and Smith paired with Adarash Patel of Memorial. One doubles will see Northridge and two doubles will face Concord.
“I think we are pretty even with a couple of the other schools in NorthWood and Memorial, and we’ll likely see them all before the weekend is done,” said Wawasee head coach Vince Rhodes. “We were up against some really tough draws today. There were some big hitters in front of us today being on the other side of the bracket. I was happy with how our kids played. We just need to keep working hard.”
Play will begin at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Plymouth. The final round of play will take place Saturday morning at Goshen Middle School.