PLYMOUTH — NorthWood stayed in the hunt for championships at three positions, and the Panthers went 4-1 on the day at the second round of the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament in Plymouth Thursday.
“I felt like today we all played well on all five courts. Stroking the ball well, hitting, setting each other up, that kind of stuff; it was very good,” said NorthWood coach Tiffiny Schwartz. “Singles was playing wonderful. We were moving the ball around. We weren’t waiting for it to come to us. We were actually being aggressive and moving our feet.”
After sweeping Goshen’s Ryan Harmelink in their first set, No. 1 Wes Troyer fell behind 5-2 in the second set but was able to win five straight to close out the semifinal in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5. He advanced to Saturday’s championship opposite Concord’s Alex Serwatka, who downed Northridge’s Gabe Rodino, 6-0, 6-0 in the other side of the bracket. NorthWood No. 2 Ben Vincent came out on top of Goshen’s Wes Beck at the end of a nip-tuck first set, then rode the momentum to a 6-4, 6-1 win and earn a spot in the title match against Northridge’s Cooper Tavernier, who topped Concord’s Freddy Buckingham, 6-0, 6-1 in Thursday’s other semifinal.
While both Troyer and Vincent played to their seed, third-seeded Landon Holland trumped two seed Cal Whitaker of Concord in three sets at 3 singles, 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 to punch his ticket to Saturday’s championship match. He’ll play Goshen’s Carlos Lichty, who won in straight sets versus Plymouth’s Nic Bagley, 6-0, 6-2 Thursday.
“Your expectations are play to win. You have nothing to lose, so that’s kind of how we went in,” explained Schwartz of the 3 singles semifinal. “In that last set, he did. It was battling back and forth, battling back and forth. The more we could drive through the ball instead of trying to lob we were winning more of those points. When we started to lob we were starting to lose points because we were pushing them out or going too deep or giving them right to him to put an overhead in. Just playing smarter was definitely a big key for him in that position.”
The Panthers 1 doubles tandem of Jack Wysong and Trajan Schwartz came up heartbreakingly short in a narrow three-set loss to top seeds Nate Slabach and Travis Herman of Concord, 3-6, 6-2, 7-5, in NorthWood’s other bid for a championship berth Thursday. They’ll play Goshen’s Diego Torres and Ben Brontager-Singer — 7-6, 6-0(5) winners over Plymouth’s Clay Hilliard and Adam Hunter — in Saturday’s third-place match.
Grant Topping and Dawson Bley bounced back from an opening night loss with a 6-0, 6-4 victory over Elkhart Memorial’s Garrett Culp and Zach Olena to move on to the fifth-place match at 2 doubles opposite Goshen’s Axel Brown and Drake Crowder, who swept Wawasee’s Zeke Keim and Clayton Firestone in the back draw Thursday.
The Panthers, who finished the NLC round robin in a three-way tie for third with Plymouth and Northridge, are looking to grab as many points as possible at Saturday’s final rounds.
“We need them to get as many points as they can for us,” said Schwartz.
“It definitely helps to have three people playing for first and second. If we can get those or even a couple of those, that just helps us tremendously with the points. All the way around today I feel like we played really well, and I was so proud of these guys.”
Meanwhile Thursday, Warsaw won two of its five matches.
The only Tigers remaining in championship contention at the tourney’s second round were 2 doubles partners Jarrett Orr and Michael Ray, but they fell 6-2, 6-0 to Plymouth’s Drew Harrell and Andy Rostron to slip into the third-place bracket versus Northridge’s Evan Nay and Aaron Cripe.
Hayden Anderson subbed in for Brian Elliott at 3 singles, where he outlasted Ridge’s Avery Mantyla in three sets, 0-6, 6-4, 6-0 to earn a berth in the fifth-place match against Wawasee’s Colin Rhodes, who topped Memorial’s Jesus Hernandez 6-4, 6-1 in the back draw Thursday. Spencer Britton and Nolan Knight claimed a 6-0, 6-2 win over Wawasee’s Grant Brooks and Jacob Krugman in the 1 doubles consolation bracket in Warsaw’s other win Thursday. Britton and Knight now face Northridge’s Brant Brouillette and Cole Miller in Saturday’s fifth place match.
Caleb Williams fell short in his back draw with Wawasee’s Zach Leedy at 1 singles Thursday, 6-3, 1-6, 6-1. Leedy will take on Plymouth’s Mitch Rose for fifth place Saturday, when Williams will face Memorial’s Chris Troyer in the seventh-place match. Reuben Williams also fell in three to Plymouth’s Grant Houin at 2 singles, 6-2, 4-6, 6-4 and will play the Chargers’ Luke Leazenby in the seventh-place match this weekend.
For the Warriors, Leedy won his back draw match with Caleb Williams, while Graham Perek did similarly at the 2 singles position with a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Leazenby and will play Houin for fifth place Saturday.
Rhodes will play Warsaw’s Anderson in the fifth-place match at 3 singles, Brooks and Krugman will face Memorial’s Mike Troyer and Brandon Bailey in a seventh-place match at 1 doubles, and Keim and Firestone will play the Chargers’ Culp and Olena in a seventh-place match at 2 doubles Saturday.
Saturday’s fifth and seventh place matches are scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at Wawasee. The third-place matches and championships are slated to follow.