BREMEN — With five of his seniors out on a senior trip, Tippecanoe Valley coach Andy Luce used Saturday’s Bremen Tennis Tournament as an opportunity to scout some of his younger talent.
Luce played liberally with his lineup throughout Saturday’s four-team tourney, moving players around to different positions in each of Valley’s three matches. Despite the Lady Vikings’ 0-3 mark at the tourney, the first-year coach was mostly pleased with what he saw from freshmen Makenzie Costello, Hannah Parson and Haley Baker, who he believes will help lay the foundation for Valley tennis teams to come.
“Today was more of an experimental day. We were down five seniors who were on a senior trip with the school so it gave me an opportunity to take a look at some of the younger talent that we have coming through,” explained Luce.
“The three freshmen that I think are going to soon become the cornerstone of our program, no question about it, they stepped up and played singles at a varsity level for the first time. They got beat, but they hold their own, they had a lot of rallies, and a lot of that just comes with practice and experience.”
Tippecanoe Valley lost 5-0 decisions to both champion Bremen and runner-up Wabash after suffering a narrow 3-2 loss to North Judson in their opener Saturday.
The Vikings claimed tiebreaker wins at 1 and 2 singles via 6-4, 5-7, 10-8 and 6-4, 2-6, 10-1 scores by Tiphanie Hodge and Makenna Bradley, respectively, but Costello and senior Kaleigh Shumaker lost their 1 doubles match with Judson’s Grace Allender and Carina Kolsa 6-1, 7-6, 10-7 after riding the momentum from their second-set win into an early lead in the tiebreaker. That ultra-close 1 doubles decision wound up making the difference as the Bluejays earned straight-set victories both at 2 doubles and 3 singles in Valley’s best chance for a win at the tournament.
“The first match we felt like we were every bit as good as North Judson,” said Luce. “Really the deciding factor in that match was the tiebreaker that we lost in one of the doubles where we actually had them up a set, and we let them off the hook. That’s kind of been our problem this year — not being able to put matches away, where we lose the momentum, we can’t get refocused, and we end up losing.”
The closest Valley came to a win after that first round meeting with Judson was in the Vikings’ 2 doubles match-up with Wabash in round two, where Shumaker and Morgan Gilbertson split with Isabel France and Alicyn Sheets but were unable to finish them off in a 6-2, 1-6, 10-5 loss.
“It’s almost equivalent to two games because you’ve got to get to 10, but it’s certainly a fair way to do it,” said Luce of the super tiebreaker format used throughout Saturday. “It’s just unfortunate that we came out on the short end of two tiebreakers after being up a set and losing the second set.”
While Valley ultimately finished winless, Bremen defended its home courts with a perfect 3-0 record en route to the tournament title at DeSantis Courts.
The Lions claimed super tiebreak wins at 1 singles and 1 doubles on the way to a clean sweep in their opener with Wabash, then cruised to 5-0 wins over Judson and Valley in rounds two and three, all in straight sets.
“We had a great start to the day with Wabash. It was a little bit more of an intense match, and then following that the other two matches we did really well and just kept our composure,” said Bremen head coach Brita Miller in her first season replacing former coach Mark Wagner, who lost his battle with cancer in February.
Sophomore Emily Smith’s super tiebreaker win over Wabash’s Alexis Hartley at 1 singles after falling behind a set and trailing early in the second set provided the Lions with a big lift, and the home team never let down the remainder of the day.
“The girls were ready, and we finished well. We didn’t have any of that lasting anxiety throughout the afternoon or anything. We finished it really easy and well,” said Miller.
Valley will host Peru next Tuesday at 5 p.m.