CULVER – The Penn boys’ tennis team put on a performance worthy of a champion Saturday.
In the process, the motivated Kingsmen put an end to an outstanding season for Warsaw.
The No. 19 Kingsmen blanked the Tigers 5-0 in the Culver Academies Semistate.
Penn improves to 21-3 on the season and earns the fourth semi state title in program history. The Kingsmen, whose last semi state crown came in 2011, advance to the quarterfinals of the State Finals on Oct. 18.
The Kingsmen will face No. 6 Evansville Memorial (18-0) at 3 p.m. at Fishers High School. Memorial topped No. 7 and previously undefeated Columbus North 4-1 Saturday to win the Jasper Semistate.
Warsaw, making its first semi state appearance since 2007, finishes 14-6.
The Kingsmen claimed the team title quickly with dominating wins at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles in just over an hour.
Warsaw, which lost 4-1 to Penn on Sept. 16 with a much different lineup, then fought tooth and nail at the final two spots at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles. Senior Evan Miller went 2:45 at No. 3 for the Tigers before losing 8-6 in a third set tiebreaker to conclude the marathon match with Penn freshman Stuart Feeley.
“We gave them a match,” said Warsaw coach Rick Orban. “It was 5-0, but we could have won at No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles. It’s all said and done and I’m so proud of our guys. They never gave up today. It was a great season and a great run for our seniors. Their goal was to get to semi state and it was neat to see them accomplish that.
“If I’m going to lose, I want to lose to Penn. They are a class act. They have a great program and a great coaching staff. Kudos to them. I wish them all the best at State.”
The Kingsmen had the exact same lineup as their first win at Warsaw Sept. 16. The Tigers only had Sam Rice at No. 1 singles and Miller at No. 3 singles in the same spots.
Penn got great play, as expected, from its’ outstanding No. 1 doubles team of seniors Sean Anderson and Aidan Koch and from junior Michael Wang at No. 1 singles.
Anderson and Wang are the only two players back from last season’s lineup that led Penn to a 17-3 mark. The Kingsmen lost 3-2 to Valparaiso in the regional final in 2012.
Anderson and Koch put the first Penn point up Saturday with a convincing 6-1, 6-3 win over seniors Nikos Schlitt and Will Petro.
Wang, a lanky junior with the tremendous forehand, topped junior Sam Rice 6-1, 6-1 to make it 2-0 for the Kingsmen.
Penn clinched the team win when junior Jacob Macri topped senior Kyle Wettschurack 6-0, 6-3 at No. 2 singles.
“We knew if we were going to beat Penn, we had to win at No. 2 singles today,” Orban said. “Their No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles are just tough. Kyle just did not play well today.”
The Tigers then put up a tremendous battle until the end.
Penn’s No. 2 doubles team of junior Brendan Butler and freshman Mason Lee outlasted juniors Caleb Ray and Nic Jansen 7-5, 5-7, 6-4. The match took right at 2:30 to complete.
The match of the day was with Miller and Feeley. Miller had defeated Feeley 7-5, 6-3 for Warsaw’s lone point in the regular-season contest. Feeley easily won the first set Saturday 6-1 and led 3-0 in the second. Miller then won 10 straight games to take the second set 6-3 and lead 4-0 in the third. Miller had a 5-2 lead in the final set before Feeley won four straight games to go up 6-5. Miller forced a tiebreak that Feeley won 8-6 to finish the 2:40 tussle.
Feeley, who was forced to default his match in the regional semifinals Tuesday night, was the hero for Penn in the regional final. The freshman rallied down 5-2 in the third set to win 7-5 for the clinching point for the Kingsmen.
Miller, who lost just two matches last season at No. 2 singles, suffered just his second loss this season. He also lost to Fort Wayne Canterbury in the Warsaw Invitational Sept. 14.
“Evan was just an incredible player for us for four years,” said Orban. “We’re definitely going to miss him. We’re going to miss all four of our seniors (Evan, Kyle, Will and Nikos).”
“We knew we had to get off to a good start today and we didn’t. We started slow all season and I can’t figure it out. Penn came in today believing they were going to beat us and that was big.”
Penn, which beat rival St. Joseph 3-2 Wednesday night to win the Portage Regional, was a motivated bunch according to their coach.
“I challenged our guys on the way here about who was going to step up and they all did today,” said Penn coach Eric Bowers. “No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles have been solid all year for us.
“We read some things about Warsaw saying they wanted this and I asked our guys did they want it. They definitely showed me that they did want it.
“I’m extremely happy. I told them I did not care what the score was the first time we played Warsaw. We had to be ready from the get go and all of them came out firing. It’s been a lot of fun and an awesome year.
“Stuart plays like a veteran for us. He’s not your typical freshman. Evan showed a lot of class in that match. He gave it his all too. Playing Warsaw each year is a good barometer for us. Normally, it’s our first match, but it was rained out and in the middle this season. Both of us want to win while the match is going on, but it’s a friendly rivalry. I’ve known Rick a long time.”