BREMEN — Triton’s girls tennis team was facing the toughest possible draw opposite Plymouth in the first round of the Bremen Sectional Wednesday.
The Lady Trojans knew it would be a challenge to find a third match point against the three-time defending champion Pilgrims, but they liked their chances at both 1 singles and 1 doubles, where a trio of unbeaten seniors could still survive in the IHSAA’s individual tournaments, even if their team was eliminated Wednesday. Unfortunately for Triton, that didn’t happen either.
Plymouth rolled through the first round, winning in straight sets on all but the 1 doubles court and advancing to face LaVille Thursday, when host Bremen takes on Glenn in the other semifinal at DeSantis Courts.
“Plymouth has a pretty solid schedule, and that keeps their level a little higher. Our schedule is not bad, but still it’s not like theirs,” explained Triton coach Allen Peckham. “Every year when we do play a team like this, usually it takes us a few games to get up to that level and then once we get to that level, we compete well.”
That was definitely the case in Wednesday’s 1 doubles showdown between a pair of conference championship tandems — Northern Lakes Conference titleholders McKenzie Scheetz and Leah Smith on the Plymouth side and Hoosier North Athletic Conference champions Emma Ross and Hannah Wanemacher for Triton.
Scheetz and Smith jumped on Ross and Wanemacher early, cruising to a fast, 6-1 win in the first set, but the Triton senior tandem responded in the second set, jumping out to a 5-1 lead en route to a 6-4 win there. But after winning three of the final four games in that second set, the Pilgrims had seized the momentum back, and they rode it to a 6-2, third-set victory to finish off the team sweep.
“The 1 doubles, they just played a solid team,” said Peckham. “Our girls played well. Just a couple games here and there, you just never know.”
While the 1 doubles match was the only one to go three sets Wednesday, the 1 singles battle between Plymouth’s Cortni Cook and Triton’s Kolbie Mason packed about as much drama into just two sets.
With Mason leading Cook 5-4 in the first set, a few disputed points gave the Plymouth senior a 6-5 lead, and Bremen athletic director Troy Holmes was called in to serve as line judge before Mason broke Cook’s serve to force a tiebreaker. But after three ties in that tiebreak, Cook was the first to seven to close out the marathon, hour-and-a-half set, and a mentally and physically drained Mason — sporting a brace on her right knee — was shut out in the second set as Cook rolled to a 7-6(5), 6-0 victory.
“That first set, one or two calls could’ve made a difference,” said Peckham of the 1 singles showdown.
“She’s been battling a sore knee, too. This is the first time she wore a brace. From all the drop shots that the Plymouth girl was hitting and her bending over to try to get them, she said that she felt her knee start to throb a little bit more in that second set.”
The other senior in Triton’s top seven, Megan McFarland, partnered with Emma Hepler to take three games from Plymouth’s Mary Beatty and Audie Plothow in the second set at 2 doubles, but it wasn’t enough to make a difference in a 6-0, 6-3 loss. Kyla Heckaman put away Molly McFarland 0-0 at 2 singles, and Miranda German did likewise to Haley Hooley at the No. 3 position as the Trojans finished with a 9-3 record.
With Wednesday’s result, Triton bids goodbye to a strong senior core that includes four-year players Mason, Wanemacher and Ross. It’s a trio that helped their program to four straight conference titles — the final Northern State Conference championship and a three-peat in the HNAC — and put up a combined 25-2 record over their senior seasons, the only losses coming at Wednesday’s season-capper. Peckham expects Molly McFarland, Hooley and Hepler back next year, as well as varsity part-timers Ivy Powell, Lexia Hostrawser and Maddie Ritchison, but he knows how hard it will be to replace the mainstays that have played such a big role in the success of Triton tennis over the past four years.
“They’ve been solid all the way through. It’s one of those times where I don’t have to worry about them; I know it’s almost like an automatic point with them. It just let me be free to work on other courts while I let them play,” said Peckham of his 1 singles and doubles.
“It was a really great experience having these girls. I don’t know if they can even be replaced in some ways. Even though we have a talented freshman class coming up, they have to work really hard to get to the level that these girls did.”