MISHAWAKA – There were plenty of opportunities for the Warsaw boys tennis team to pick up a signature win over Penn Thursday night.
In the end, though, the perennial power Kingsmen found a way to win.
Host Penn, in a match featuring three tiebreakers and a pair of three-setters, edged past the Tigers 3-2.
The Kingsmen, playing for the first time, topped the Tigers in a matchup of lineups boasting plenty of seniors. Penn, which finished 14-5 a year ago, boasted a lineup that had four seniors, while the Tigers had five. Warsaw was playing for the second straight night after topping Huntington North 4-1 in a rain-delayed opener at WCHS on Wednesday night.
Penn won all three of the tiebreakers on the evening, while Warsaw won both of the three-set matches.
“All in all, I’m pretty pleased where we are at after our first two matches,” said veteran Warsaw coach Rick Orban. “This was a match though that I thought we could have won. Credit Penn. Eric (Penn coach Eric Bowers) always has them ready to play. They have a belief and they never gave up tonight.”
Warsaw claimed its two points at No. 3 singles and No. 1 doubles as each position rallied for three-set victories. Senior David Homme topped sophomore Sid Das 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 at No. 3. The tandem of seniors Justin Stout and Ryan Wettschurack came back to defeat seniors Cole Poleya and Jack Spalding 4-6, 6-4, 6-3 at the top doubles spot.
“I’m thrilled with David’s play right now,” said Orban. “He listened and applied what I told him and fought his way back. He played smarter after that first set.”
“It’s a huge win for No. 1 doubles. They attacked and were more aggressive. They are starting to believe and understand what it takes to win.”
Penn won at No. 1 singles as senior Mason Lee beat junior Colton Lind 6-4, 7-6 (7-4). Penn junior A.J. Antonelli topped senior Andrew Gauger 7-6 (7-3), 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Gauger led 5-2 in the opening set before Antonelli regrouped for the win.
The Kingsmen also took the No. 2 doubles match as senior Owen Kleppe and junior Eric Spaargaren beat senior Hayden Steger and sophomore Spencer Britton 6-3, 7-6 (7-2).
“We were close at both No. 1 and No. 2 singles,” Orban said. “I saw some things that I liked. Colton is still feeling his way through at No. 1 in playing against the best every night. He showed some signs tonight that I was very please with. Andrew is playing a higher level of competition after playing No. 3 last year. At times he played well tonight and at other times not well. I think that he will figure it out. No. 2 doubles is still learning. They have to learn to stay consistent and play smart tennis.”
Penn is missing a key piece in its top player. Senior Stuart Feeley, who earned All-NIC honors at No. 1 singles a year ago for the Kingsmen, is expected to be sidelined the entire season due to an injury.
Orban believes that there is plenty of potential in his squad this fall.
“We have a senior loaded team with a lot of experience,” remarked Orban. “It’s a matter of focus each and every point and every game. They have to believe in and trust each other and look at it as the team and not as individuals.”
Penn won the junior varsity matchup by an 8-1 final. Kyler Bartol won in JV singles play for the Tigers.
Warsaw hosts Marian Monday and opens Northern Lakes Conference play at Elkhart Memorial next Thursday. Penn hosts rival Mishawaka on Tuesday.