WARSAW – The Warsaw girls tennis team is not ranked in the coaches’ poll.
The talented Tigers though are not letting that fact slow them down one bit.
Warsaw showcased its abilities Tuesday night in a big way with a dominating 4-1 win over No. 24 ranked NorthWood in a key Northern Lakes Conference matchup.
The Tigers rolled to the league win over the host Panthers in a match that was moved indoors to the Warsaw Tennis & Fitness Club due to the inclement weather.
Warsaw, sporting a lineup with just one senior, improves to 8-2 overall and moves to 4-1 in NLC play. NorthWood drops to 10-2 overall and goes to 4-2 in league action.
Warsaw coach Rick Orban, whose team has four regulars back from last year’s squad that reached the semistate, saw plenty to like from his young, but very experienced group.
“I was proud of how our girls reacted tonight,” said Orban. “They never doubted themselves and came out and played with a lot of confidence.
“We were the underdog tonight, playing against a higher ranked team. But I truly believed that we were the better team. Our girls know what the rankings are.”
The Tigers wasted no time in winning the match. Junior Ella Knight rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win over sophomore Reegan Miller at No. 2 singles play. The duo of junior Colette Smith and senior Athena Schlitt then posted a 6-1, 6-2 win over senior Jama Rice and junior Kennedy Wiens at No. 1 doubles action. Warsaw clinched the team win as junior Liza Lewis earned the third point with a 6-2, 6-2 win over freshman Alex Jesse on the No. 1 singles court.
Knight and freshman Alyssa Zellers each stayed undefeated in league play with their wins. Zellers topped senior Hannah Walter 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
Lewis and Knight played at the No. 1 and No. 3 singles spots respectively for the Tigers last season. Smith played No. 2 singles, but now gives her team a formidable top doubles team with Schlitt, who was at that spot a year ago.
“I’m really pleased with the attitudes of our single players and how they have gelled together this season,” Orban said. “They are all just playing with a lot of confidence right now. They are playing smart tennis and they are playing power tennis.
“Our No. 1 doubles team is really strong. They complement each other’s game very well. And they trust each other and that’s huge in doubles play.”
NorthWood picked up a win at No. 2 doubles as the team of junior Betsy Nunemaker and senior Katie Troyer rallied to defeat junior Libby Jenkins and sophomore Rachel Yeager 3-6, 6-3, 6-3.
The Panthers, who finished 14-5 overall and 5-2 in league play a year ago, have lost back-to-back conference matches after a 10-0 start. NorthWood lost a 5-0 final to Plymouth last Friday.
“We’ve gotten off to a very slow start in our last couple of matches and that hurts,” said NorthWood coach Tif Schwartz. “We just need to pick our drive back up. We knew coming in here that Warsaw was good. I still like where we are at in the NLC.
“I think that the ranking put pressure on our girls. It was the first time that we were ranked and I think that they put pressure on themselves. Now, they can just go out and hopefully play without the pressure of it.”
The NLC standings are a logjam now with Warsaw, Concord and Plymouth all having one loss in league play. The Tigers are slated to host Concord, which is ranked No. 26, Wednesday. Warsaw will then play at Goshen next Monday in the NLC regular-season finale. The NLC Tournament is set for May 10-12 and has been moved to WCHS.
Orban believes that his team can make a long run in the postseason, which begins in two weeks when they shoot for a 17th straight sectional championship at home.
“Are we there yet?,” said Orban. “No. but we are getting closer. I like this team and I like our lineup, especially if we get completely healthy. But I will know where we are when we get to that first round of the sectional.”
With the match moved indoors, there were no junior varsity matches played Tuesday night.
NorthWood hosts Wawasee to wrap up league play Thursday evening.