Warsaw boys tennis coach Rick Orban would love to see his team win a third straight conference tournament title this week.
That being said, though, he will be focused on the bigger picture as postseason play commences Wednesday with the Northern Lakes Conference tourney.
“It’s real important that we play well in the NLC tournament,” said Orban Monday while watching his team post a 4-1 win at Concord in the finale of the league regular season. “I’ll be looking for focused and smart tennis from our guys. We want to get momentum going into the sectional next week.”
The Tigers, who will be a prohibitive favorite next week at home to win their third straight sectional title and the program’s 27th overall, will not be the favorite in the league event. Plymouth, which was runner-up to the Tigers in the NLC tourney a year ago, won the regular season title at 7-0. Goshen was second at 6-1 with the Tigers third at 5-2. Warsaw lost 4-1 to Plymouth and 3-2 to Goshen, while Plymouth beat Goshen 4-1 last week.
Orban, who has guided the Tigers to the NLC championship each of the past two seasons, has settled into a lineup after much experimenting this fall. Warsaw graduated four players from its varsity lineup a year ago, when the Tigers advanced to the semi state before losing to Penn.
“I’m comfortable with our lineup now,” said Orban, whose team is 7-6 overall. “I’m also pretty comfortable at being 5-2 in the NLC with how many people we had to figure out where to play them this season.”
“Our focus has to be coming out strong in that first round at home on Wednesday. The key is get all five positions through that first round with wins.”
The Tiger lineup now has seniors Sam Rice, Nic Jansen and Caleb Ray at the singles spots respectively. Rice was third in the NLC Tournament last year at No. 1, while Jansen and Ray were champions at No. 2 doubles.
Warsaw will have senior Cole Baker and junior Christopher Herendeen at No. 1 doubles with sophomores Justin Stout and David Homme at No. 2.
“Nic is playing extremely well, Sam has played better and more consistent lately and Caleb helps us out now at No. 3,” Orban said. “Our No. 1 doubles is stronger now and so is our No. 2 doubles.”
Wawasee wrapped up a winless NLC regular season Monday with a 3-2 loss to NorthWood to finish at 0-7 in league play.
The Warriors, who are 3-12 overall, got wins Monday from senior Todd Hauser at No. 1 singles and junior Cal Heinisch at No. 3 singles.
Wawasee’s lineup also includes sophomore Nathan Perek at No. 2 singles and the doubles combinations of senior Jake Hutchinson and sophomore Nate Haines at No. 1 and seniors Brayton Fretz and Leonard Kline at No. 2.
The NLC Tournament is set for Wednesday and Thursday at Warsaw with the final day at Northridge on Saturday.