PLYMOUTH — It’s been a tough spring on teams in northern Indiana. NorthWood’s lineup has struggled in particular at the start of the season, and the Lady Panthers slipped to an 0-3 start and 0-2 in Northern Lakes Conference play with a 4-1 loss at Plymouth Thursday night.
Still, the Lady Pilgrims look pretty good in spite of their relative inexperience, their only losses in the early going coming at the hands of 19th-ranked Penn and a 26th-rated Warsaw squad via a narrow, 3-2 defeat. And while she’d rather the outcomes were going the other way, NorthWood coach Tiffiny Schwartz is just happy to get her players out on the courts.
“It’s tough to be down 0-2. No one wants to lose in the conference, but this is only our third match with the way the crazy weather has been and then also, probably two of our three matches have been cold and windy and breezy,” said Schwartz Thursday.
“I’m not making excuses. Plymouth is a good team; we knew that coming in we were going to have a good match. It was good to at least to get everybody out and playing. We had been off since Friday I guess and really haven’t had a chance to get a lot of practicing in outside either because of the weather. But everyone is battling it so we’ll get by and do the best that we can.”
NorthWood’s lone win Thursday came at 1 singles, where Reegan Miller adjusted to both the initial gusty weather and her opponent’s play for an eventual three-set victory. The turnaround was an unlikely one after a strong start by Plymouth No. 1 Cortni Cook, who handed Miller a quick, 6-0 sweep in the first set, but the Panther junior forced a third set with a 6-3 second-set win and finished Cook off by a convincing, 6-2 score in the clincher.
“Wasn’t it 9-0? I think it was 9-0,” laughed Schwartz of the lopsided first set at 1 singles.
“She had to change some things that she’s not used to changing. Once she started to make those changes — she started to compensate a little more on some different things — then that helped her to get back into the match, and I think it also threw Cortni off because it made her have to go to a change of pace and just change her game up a little bit. Luckily for us, she didn’t maybe adjust as easily as we did, and we were able to take advantage of some things.”
Miller’s match left the Panthers trailing two points to one, but that was as close as NorthWood ever got. Soon after that decision, McKenzie Sheetz and Leah Smith finished off Kennedy Wiens and Betsy Nunemaker three and four in a competitive two-setter at 1 doubles to give the Pilgrims their third match point and the team win.
Gretchen Adams’ 2 singles match with Kyla Heckaman also went three sets, but the outcome was a mirror-image of Miller’s bout with Cook, as Adams went up a set 6-3 before Heckaman recovered 6-1 and 6-4 over the next two sets to close out the evening’s varsity play. Adams actually led by a 4-3 margin in the third set, but the match momentum swung the other direction late, and the junior couldn’t quite recover it in time.
“I thought she played well. She started to go too deep,” explained Schwartz of her 2 singles player. “I started seeing her miss a lot of balls deep, and that was one thing that was working for her for awhile was the deep shots. It might’ve been a little nerves coming down to the end too — that she started to hit a little too deep and then they started going out. I thought it was a good match; I thought she played well.”
Thursday’s meet represented the return of sophomore Alex Jesse to the NorthWood lineup. With little playing time under her belt this year after being sidelined with a leg injury prior to Thursday, the sophomore returning 1 singles player was shuffled into the lineup at 2 doubs alongside Riley Graber, and Plymouth’s Mary Beatty and Audie Plothow handed them a 2-2 loss for the Pilgrims’ second match point of the night.
“Again, she hasn’t had a lot of match play under her belt. She practices — she can serve, she’s done a lot of stuff in practices — but she hasn’t done a lot of matches. For her to come in and play at doubles too, that’s not what she’s used to,” Schwartz said.
Plymouth grabbed its first match point Thursday via Miranda German’s 6-1 win over Lauren Mikel as the Pilgrims moved to 5-2 overall and 1-1 in the conference. NorthWood dipped to 0-3 and 0-2 in NLC play and now jumps headlong into the season with a match tonight at Jimtown, a tournament at New Prairie Saturday and back-to-back NLC matches with Northridge and Goshen next Monday and Tuesday.
“I’m pleased with the way we played. It’s been awhile. Like I said, we haven’t really played since Friday so to be out here playing again, we just need to get some more experience and more hitting in for sure,” Schwartz said. “Hopefully in the next week we’ll be good. We have a lot of matches, but it’ll be good to get them going.”
NorthWood’s JV lineup also fell to Plymouth Thursday, 8-2. Fernanda Cortes and Emily Thompson claimed the JV Panthers’ only two wins.