PLYMOUTH — Locked in a three-way tie for third place after the conference round robin, NorthWood’s tennis team put itself in position to shake up the standings at the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament Wednesday.
The Panthers advanced on four of five courts in the opening round at Plymouth, but the climb will get steeper at Thursday’s semifinals.
“I feel really good about how we played today. I feel like we used this as a stepping stone for tomorrow night,” said NorthWood head coach Tiffiny Schwartz. “And then also that we’re going to be able to get out of here at a decent time, get home, get the homework done, get some rest and get back at it again tomorrow. All in all, yeah, I’m very pleased with the way it worked out and the way we’ve been playing.”
No. 2 seed Wes Troyer cruised through Wawasee’s Zach Leedy, 1-1 at 1 singles to advance opposite Goshen’s Ryan Harmelink, a 2-0 winner over Warsaw’s Caleb Williams Wednesday. Fellow second seed Ben Vincent advanced past Warsaw’s Reuben Williams, 1-3, at 2 singles to face Goshen’s Wes Beck in the semifinals, and three seed Landon Holland put away Northridge’s Avery Mantyla, 2-1, to advance to the 3 singles semis against Concord’s Cal Whitaker, a 2-1 victor over Warsaw’s Brian Elliott Wednesday. NorthWood 1 doubles partners Jack Wysong and Trajan Schwartz cruised to a 6-0, 6-1 win over Wawasee’s Grant Brooks and Jacob Krugman and will now face top seed Concord’s Nate Slabach and Travis Hermon in the semifinals Thursday.
The Panthers’ lone loss Wednesday came at 2 doubs, where Grant Topping and Dawson Bley fell, 6-0, 6-1 to Northridge’s Evan Nay and Aaron Cripe and slipped into the back draw opposite Elkhart Memorial’s Garrett Culp and Zach Olena.
“We got the fourth seed, so it felt like that was good to us. And we played them well originally coming in. Tonight just was not our night, and I think Northridge was picking it up, too,” explained Schwartz of the 2 doubles opener. “They knew what they had to do because they played us before, and we went three sets with them. We did what we could. We just weren’t there today.”
While round robin winner Concord advanced on all five courts, and both runner-up Goshen and third-place NorthWood stayed alive at four of five positions, Warsaw won just one of its opening matches Wednesday as Jarrett Orr and Michael Ray collected a 2-0 victory over Goshen’s Axel Brown and Drake Crowder. They now face Plymouth’s second-seeded Drew Harrell and Andy Rostron — 0-1 winners of Wawasee’s Zeke Keim and Clayton Firestone — in the tournament semifinals.
“They just went out, they had very little mistakes. They kept the ball cross court, and they kept it low and played well,” said Warsaw coach Stacy Lind of her 2 doubles tandem.
Warsaw’s 1 doubles team of Spencer Britton and Nolan Knight played about as well as they could in their first-round match with one-seeded Slabach and Hermon but came up short of a win, falling 7-6, 2-6, 6-4 at their position. They’ll play Brooks and Krugman in the consolation bracket Thursday.
“That’s some of the best doubles I’ve seen them play. To come up against the number one team like that and go three sets, I couldn’t ask for more from them,” said Lind.
Wawasee came up empty-handed Wednesday with losses on all five courts.
Leedy lost to Troyer and will play Warsaw’s Williams Thursday, Colin Rhoades fell 0-0 to Goshen one seed Carlos Lichty and will play Elkhart Memorial’s Jesus Hernandez, and Warriors 2 singles player Graham Perek fell 0-1 to Concord’s Freddy Buckingham and will face Memorial’s Luke Leazenby in the consoles.
“He’s starting to really serve a little bit better. He’s moving better on his returns. It looks like his footwork is getting a little bit better on the court,” said Wawasee coach Shane Staley of his No. 3 player. “He stood out where he was looking like he was kind of turning the corner here and there.”
Brooks and Krugman fell to Schwartz and Wysong and will play Warsaw’s Britton and Knight Thursday. Keim and Firestone face Goshen’s Brown and Crowder in Thursday’s 2 doubles consoles. There are plenty of points still up for grabs in the back draw, and with sectionals looming next week, there’s positive momentum at stake at the tournament, too.
“We’ve got a lot to fight for in the back draw still, point-wise. We’re just also thinking about next week being sectional,” said Staley.
“We can really take the match play experience from here and kind of just work on going forward and applying it to the next rounds and also the sectional.”