WARSAW – There’s no shortage of confidence on the Warsaw boys tennis team right now.
The Tigers hope that air of invincibility leads to a regional championship this week.
Warsaw meets host Culver Academies Tuesday in a regional semifinal matchup. Plymouth (15-3) faces Manchester (13-2) in the other Tuesday semifinal clash. Both matches are scheduled for 5:30 p.m. starts.
Coach Rick Orban feels good about the chances of his 12-5 squad as it looks to win the regional for the first time since 2007.
“I think that it’s always important to go into a match with confidence and we have that going into the regional,” said Orban Friday night after watching his team blank Tippecanoe Valley 5-0 indoors to win their own sectional title for the second straight year.
“I think, honestly, that the best team will win on Tuesday. If we come out and play our best tennis, no one can stop us at the regional.”
The Tigers are very familiar with first-round regional foe Culver Academies. The Eagles knocked Warsaw out in the regional final a year ago by a 4-1 count. Culver Academies also posted a close, 3-2 win at Warsaw back on Sept. 4.
Warsaw is counting on the fact that a lot has changed since the first meeting with the Eagles five weeks ago. The Tigers have altered their lineup at three positions since then. Warsaw also lost both doubles matches in three sets on that day and Caleb Ray was injured in the No. 2 doubles match. Ray returned on Sept. 25 to help the Tigers win the NLC Tournament and then the sectional title.
“We’re a better team than Culver,” said Warsaw Kyle Wettschurack Friday. “I think it’s our match to lose Tuesday. We’re playing our best tennis as a team now. We’re focused and all of us, especially our four seniors, want to make a deep run in the tournament.”
Wettschurack, who is playing No. 2 singles, knows that the return of Ray is huge.
“Caleb gives us peace of mind,” Wettschurack said. “I trust our No. 2 doubles completely and count on them. Caleb gives us that one point we need.”
Orban feels very good about his entire lineup now after tinkering with it for most of the season. The Tigers have junior Sam Rice at No. 1 singles, senior Wettschurack at No. 2 and senior Evan Miller at No. 3. Seniors Will Petro and Nikos Schlitt are at No. 1 doubles with juniors Ray and Nic Jansen at No. 2.
“Kyle is just rock solid at No. 2 and I would put Evan against any No. 3 player in the state,” said Orban. “Our No. 2 doubles is playing incredible tennis and our No. 1 is a different team now that believes they can’t be beat. Sam can beat anyone when he makes shots like he did tonight (in the sectional final).
“Caleb’s return has definitely been huge and bolstered the confidence of our entire team the last couple of weeks. It’s about consistent play. He and Nic trust each other out there and they listen. The believe they can’t be beat.”
The Tigers have lost to Culver Academies, Penn, South Bend St. Joseph, Crown Point and Concord. They also have a 3-2 win over NLC foe Plymouth, their likely opponent for the regional championship match on Wednesday if they get past the host Eagles.
Plymouth claimed its 17th straight sectional championship at Bremen. Culver Academies won its own sectional, giving it 10 in a row. Manchester won the Peru Sectional title, it’s first sectional championship since 2006.
The regional title match at Culver Academies is slated for Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. The regional winner then plays the winner of the Portage Regional back at Culver Academies Oct. 12 at 10 a.m. for a spot in the State Finals Oct. 18.
The Portage Regional Tuesday has No. 19 Penn facing Valparaiso and No. 21 South Bend St. Joseph versus LaPorte.