CULVER – A measure of revenge was so sweet for the Warsaw boys tennis team Tuesday night.
The confident Tigers were at their best when it mattered the most to sideline Culver Academies 3-2 in regional semifinal play.
Warsaw, which lost 4-1 to the Eagles in a regional final in 2012, earns the right to face Plymouth Wednesday for a shot at the program’s first regional championship since 2007.
Warsaw (13-5) meets Plymouth (16-3) back at Culver Academies Wednesday at 5:30 p.m.
The Tigers, who lost 3-2 at home to Culver Academies back on Sept. 4, overwhelmed the Eagles this time around. A new-look lineup, which has been in place for about two weeks now, has Warsaw playing its best tennis of the season.
“This is huge for the kids, huge for their belief and their confidence,” said Warsaw coach Rick Orban in a phone interview Tuesday night following the victory. “They really believed they were going to win tonight and that’s neat to see.
“They just came out tonight and played great tennis all the way through our lineup. I’m thrilled because Culver is a good team. It’s fun to see these guys so confident.”
Warsaw, which has changed its lineup at three positions since the regular-season loss to Culver Academies, is on some kind of a roll. The Tigers have been bolstered big time by the return of Caleb Ray. The junior fractured his wrist in the first match versus the Eagles and missed about three weeks.
The Tigers had dominating singles wins from seniors Kyle Wettschurack and Evan Miller. Wettschurack beat Chris Bilicic 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 and Miller topped Abel Barrera 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3.
“Wow,” said Orban about the performance from Wettschurack. “Culver changed their lineup from the first time and had a different player facing Kyle. That didn’t phase him. Kyle went out and played his tennis.
“Evan is just so focused. He’s such a team player. All he cares about is winning his match and helping the team win.”
Wettschurack played No. 1 singles a year ago, while Miller was at No. 2. Both have played at various spots this year, including doubles, as Orban experimented with his lineup. Miller also missed some time due to an early-season knee injury.
The Tigers clinched the win Tuesday as juniors Ray and Nic Jansen beat Nicholas Haydon and Evan Dillon 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles.
“Our No. 2 doubles came to play tonight,” remarked Orban. “Culver played a heck of a match. They were up on us 4-3 in the first set, but Caleb and Nic never lost focus.”
The Eagles won at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. Sam Concannon beat junior Sam Rice 6-2, 6-2 at singles. The duo of Martin Fecarotta and Brian Tao topped seniors Will Petro and Nikos Schlitt 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) on the doubles court.
“Sam played absolutely great tonight,” said Orban of his top singles player. “He was the last court done. He battled the whole match and I was really proud of him.
“I was proud of our No. 1 doubles team too. They were up in the second set of their match.”
Plymouth beat Manchester 4-1 in the other semifinal Tuesday night. The Pilgrims got straight set wins from John Hunter at No. 1 singles and Nate Knapp at No. 3 singles. Plymouth also won in straight sets at both doubles spots as Matt Flynn and Max Holloway were victorious at No. 1 and Ryan Johnson and Braydon Davidson won at No. 2.
Warsaw beat Northern Lakes Conference foe Plymouth 3-2 on Sept. 5 at Plymouth with its’ old lineup. The Tigers beat the Pilgrims head-to-head at No. 1 and No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles on the final day of the NLC Tournament Sept. 28 as Warsaw claimed the NLC championship with the current lineup.
“I told our guys they played the best tennis as a team we’ve played all season tonight,” said Orban. “They celebrated for about 10 minutes tonight and then they got refocused. We have a lot of work ahead of us. But, I think nerves is the only thing that could stop us and I didn’t see that tonight at all.”
The winner of the Warsaw-Plymouth match returns to Culver Academies Saturday at 10 a.m. for the semi state with the winner going to the State Finals Oct. 18.
The Culver Academies Regional winner will face the Portage Regional champion, which will be either No. 19 Penn (19-3) or No. 21 South Bend St. Joseph (24-1). Those two also square off in the regional finale Wednesday.