WARSAW – A fast and furious three days of girls tennis concluded Friday at Warsaw with the finals of the Northern Lakes Conference Girls Tennis Championships. Plymouth held up its regular season play with the tournament championship while Warsaw’s Ella Knight roared in the two singles bracket to stand tall as an individual champion.
Knight, who admittedly played the first two days of the tournament under the weather, didn’t look slow in the least against top seed Regan Landis of Concord in the final. Knight moved along the baseline well and limited the unforced errors while Landis ran out of options in a 6-1, 6-2 final in the championship.
Knight, whose sock game has been on point all season, donned the black Grumpy Cat three-quarters. The junior wasn’t the least bit grumpy after accepting her awards as the bracket champion.
“I knew coming into today that Regan was more of a consistent hitter, and I knew I had to keep the ball in play and make smarter shots,” Knight said. Landis beat Knight head-to-head 6-1, 6-1 during the regular season. “I know the last time we played I was missing a lot of shots I shouldn’t be missing. Tonight I felt like I couldn’t do that if I wanted to win conference. I kept that in the back of my mind.”
Warsaw had two other courts playing for championships, but came up short in a pair of well-contested matchups.
At one doubles, Colette Smith and Athena Schlitt put their quality communication skills up against the power and finesse combo of Kendall Dreibelbis and McKenzie Scheetz from Plymouth. It became a theme of untimely errors from Warsaw and smart returns from Plymouth that pushed the Pilgrim one seed to the championship in a 7-6 (7-1), 6-4 result.
At three singles, Warsaw’s Alyssa Zellers looked as though she would cruise to a title, jumping out to a quick 4-1 lead on Plymouth’s Ashley Harrell in the first set. The script flipped, however, quickly in Harrell’s favor as the play of the two players shifted dramatically. Zellers rolled 6-2 in the first set. Call it freshman mistakes by Zellers or senior wisdom by Harrell, but Harrell took seven of the next ten points and didn’t look bothered in the second set in a 6-1 score, then Harrell closed out the title with a 6-2 final in the third set.
“Alyssa struggled tonight, she’ll admit to that,” said Warsaw head coach Rick Orban. “I don’t think she would have thought she would have lost to Plymouth, but it happened. Just knowing her personality, she will bounce back for tournament time. I think she will be a solid play for us.”
Those court points earned by Plymouth were huge in determining the team championship. Winning the two doubles championship was Plymouth’s Leah Smith and Cortni Cook over top-seeded Allison Murphy and Megan Godzisz of Concord. Along with a runner-up finish from Lanae Singleton at one singles gave the Pilgrims a total of 15.5 points to edge Concord’s 13.5 and Warsaw’s 12.5 as the top three teams in the NLC combined with the round robin scores.
Elkhart Memorial’s Krystal Grubb won her third NLC title at one singles with her four and one win over Singleton.
All seven of the champions – each of the three singles players and the four doubles champions – were named automatic All-Northern Lakes Conference performers. Joining the list as At-Large selections were Singleton, Warsaw’s Liza Lewis and Concord’s Alaina Brubaker, who coincidentally beat Lewis in three sets as the last match of the tournament.
Honorable Mention All-NLC selections were Warsaw’s Smith and Schlitt, Landis, Northridge’s Taylor Sellers and NorthWood’s Alex Jesse, Kennedy Wiens and Jama Rice.
Plymouth’s Brad Haeck was named by his peers as the Northern Lakes Conference Coach of the Year.
1. Plymouth 15.5
2. Concord 13.5
3. Warsaw 12.5
4. NorthWood 10.5
5. Elkhart Memorial 8
6. Wawasee 5
6. Northridge 5
8. Goshen 2