WARSAW – Prohibitive favorite Warsaw will not have to wait at all to begin postseason play.
The heavily favored Tigers will face Whitko Wednesday in the first match of their own five-team sectional.
Sectional pairings were drawn Monday night by the host schools for the tournament.
Warsaw, which sits at 9-5, is coming off winning the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament championship in impressive fashion Saturday. Coach Rick Orban’s squad, which had tied Concord and Plymouth at 6-1 for the regular-season NLC title, went 5-0 Saturday with two individual championships and a trio of third-place finishes.
The Tigers, who lost in the regional final to Culver Academies in 2012, boast a veteran lineup with four seniors and three juniors. Warsaw has also been boosted by the return of Caleb Ray at No. 2 doubles. Ray returned from a fractured wrist suffered in a match in early September for the three-day NLC Tourney.
“When we are confident, we are hard to beat,” said Orban following the NLC Tourney finals Saturday in Goshen. “You can see the confidence of the whole team rise with Caleb back. That makes a big difference for us.
“We are the prohibitive favorites in the sectional. We just need to keep our focus and stay where we need to be. We’ll talk about that at practice Monday and Tuesday.
“I don’t see us having a letdown for the sectional. I think we are confident and positive right now. I’ll challenge our guys to continue to play well and to try and go out and win their matches 6-0, 6-0. That’s not to try and embarrass anyone, but I want us to go into the regional with a lot of confidence as a team. That will be huge for us.”
Warsaw owns 25 sectional titles in program history.
The opening matches at Warsaw Wednesday pits Warsaw versus Whitko and Tippecanoe Valley versus Columbia City, both at 4:30 p.m.
The semifinal on Thursday at 4:30 will have Wawasee (8-7) versus the winner of the Warsaw-Whitko match. The winner of that match will then face the winner of the Valley-Columbia City match in the sectional title tilt at 4:30 p.m. on Friday at WCHS.
Warsaw defeated Wawasee 5-0 on Sept. 17 in Syracuse.
Wawasee last won a sectional title in 2010. Columbia City won the championship in 2011.
The sectional championship match at Warsaw is slated for 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
Warsaw’s Evan Miller, one of four seniors in the lineup, agrees that having Ray back is huge for the Tigers.
“It’s awesome to have Caleb back,” said Miller Saturday after he won the No. 3 singles championship at the NLC Tourney. “We’re a way, way better team with him back. One point in tennis means everything.”
Miller, who played No. 2 singles as a junior, has settled in quite nicely at No. 3 after missing some time early in the season due to a knee injury.
Warsaw defeated Peru 5-0 and Culver Academies topped Plymouth 4-1 in the regional semifinals a year ago. Culver Academies then beat Warsaw 4-1 in the regional final.
The Tigers lost 3-2 at home to Culver Academies back on Sept. 4 in the match that Ray was injured during. Warsaw then beat Plymouth 3-2 the next day at Plymouth. The Tigers beat the Pilgrims in all three matches Saturday at the NLC Tourney.
Triton drew heavy favorite Plymouth in a semifinal match Thursday at 4:30 p.m. in the Bremen Sectional. The Trojans wrapped up an 11-5 regular season with a 5-0 win over Tippecanoe Valley Monday night.
Plymouth, which finished second to Warsaw in the NLC Tourney, has won 16 straight sectional championships.
The Bremen Sectional opens Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. with Glenn vs. LaVille. Triton plays Plymouth and host Bremen faces the winner of the Glenn-LaVille match in semifinal action Thursday at 4:30.
The title tilt at Bremen is also scheduled for 4:30 p.m. on Friday.
The regional will be played Oct. 8-9 at Culver Academies. The semifinals on Oct. 8 will pit the Warsaw Sectional winner versus the Culver Academies Sectional winner and the Peru Sectional winner versus the Bremen Sectional winner. The regional title match is slated for Oct. 9.
Culver Academies will also play host to the semi state on Oct. 12. The Culver Academies Regional winner will face the Portage Regional winner for a berth in the State Finals.
The State Finals are set for Oct. 18 and 19 at Carmel High School, Fishers High School and North Central High School.