GOSHEN – Warsaw boys tennis coach Rick Orban said all along that his team was the best in the Northern Lakes Conference.
The Tigers went out Saturday and proved that point in emphatic fashion.
Warsaw put an exclamation point on its second straight NLC championship by winning the conference tournament.
Champions Evan Miller at No. 3 singles and the No. 2 doubles team of Caleb Ray and Nic Jansen led the way as the Tigers won the NLC tourney title too for the second straight season.
Warsaw, which shared the NLC regular season crown with Concord and Plymouth at 6-1, took care of business in impressive fashion at the finals at Goshen Middle School.
The Tigers won all five of their matches Saturday in the finale of the three-day tournament. Warsaw finished with 47 points, while Plymouth was second with 41. Concord was third with 39, followed by Goshen (34), Northridge (29), NorthWood (20), Wawasee (10) and Elkhart Memorial (1).
The stellar play of his veteran team, which boasts four seniors and three juniors, was no surprise to the always confident Orban.
“I felt we were the best team in the conference,” said Orban without hesitation. “I thought that all year long. Our team today wanted to repeat as NLC tourney champions and overall champions.
“We played very strong, very good tennis today. When we are confident, we are hard to beat.”
The Tigers bounced back after a 3-2 home loss to Concord in the regular-season and NLC finale this past Monday.
A big reason that Warsaw is rolling is the return of Ray. The talented junior missed about three weeks after suffering a fractured wrist on Sept. 4 versus Culver Academies, a home match Warsaw lost 3-2. Ray makes a huge difference in the lineup after coming back on Wednesday for the start of the NLC Tourney.
“You can just see the confidence rise in our entire team with Caleb back,” Orban said. “It makes a huge difference. His return has helped the attitude of our whole team. Everyone is more positive now.”
Ray teamed with Jansen Saturday to defeat sophomore Braydon Davidson and junior Ryan Johnson of Plymouth 6-2, 7-5.
“My goal was to get back for the sectional, but thankfully it healed fast,” said Ray of his wrist. “It was hard being out and watching.
“It’s just amazing to win the NLC with everything that’s happened. I’ve went from doubles to singles to doubles and it takes a while to get used to. But, Nic is a great partner and I love playing doubles.”
Ray, who finished his match versus Culver Academies despite the injury, is one tough young man.
Miller, who won the NLC title at No. 2 singles as a junior, beat Concord senior Jared Searer 6-3, 6-3 to take the No. 3 singles title Saturday. Despite another title, Miller was not pleased with his play.
“It’s about how you win and I won playing very poorly,” said Miller. “I don’t know what it is, but I’ll be all right. My goal in the sectional (this coming week) is to be the first one off the court for us every match.”
The Tigers also had three third-place finishes with wins Saturday. Junior Sam Rice beat Plymouth sophomore John Hunter 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles. Senior Kyle Wettschurack outlasted Plymouth freshman John Gerard 6-0, 5-7, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. The Warsaw No. 1 doubles team of seniors Nikos Schlitt and Will Petro topped senior Derick Hostetler and junior Peter Vukovich of Goshen 6-4, 2-6, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles.
Wawasee got sixth-place finishes from senior Kyler Love at No. 1, junior Todd Hauser at No. 2 and senior Luke Smith at No. 3.
Winning tourney titles on Saturday were Northridge senior John Garfein at No. 1, Concord senior Bernardo Cardario at No. 2 and the Plymouth team of senior Matt Flynn and junior Max Holloway at No. 1 doubles.
All of the tournament champions, including the trio of Miller, Ray and Jansen from Warsaw, earned All-NLC honors. Chosen as At-Large All-NLC picks were Sam Rice (Warsaw), Nick Pollock (Concord) and John Hunter (Plymouth). The All-NLC honorable mention choices were Kyle Wettschurack (Warsaw), Kyler Love (Wawasee), Hudson Kay (Goshen), Derick Hostetler (Goshen), Peter Vukovich (Goshen), Caleb Yoder (NorthWood), Quinn Stillson (NorthWood) and Austin Stutzman (Goshen).
Warsaw’s Orban was named the NLC Coach of the Year.
The final NLC overall standings, based on a point system from regular season and the conference tourney, had Warsaw on top. Plymouth was runner-up, followed by Concord, Goshen, Northridge, NorthWood, Wawasee and Elkhart Memorial.