WARSAW — Having just swept Whitko in straight sets everywhere two nights prior and with the conference-rival Lady Tigers waiting in the semifinal, Wawasee had a chance at a letdown at Wednesday’s Warsaw Girls Tennis Sectional-opener.
But after a somewhat sluggish start, the Warriors took care of business with another 5-0 shutout of the Wildcats in Warsaw, advancing to play the hosts Thursday night.
“I don’t think they overlooked tonight. We focused on just this match; we haven’t talked about going any further or what we’re going to do before we came in,” said Wawasee coach Lynnette Jakson. “The first few games they were slower starting than I would have liked. I think maybe a little bit of sectional nerves just coming in knowing that they had a job to do. It was more I think that they took care of things pretty easily on Monday, and things didn’t go quite as they thought in the first game or two and that starts creeping into your mind. But then they did a really good job of overcoming that, of settling down and getting back to business and finishing out on all the courts.”
Wawasee surrendered a total of just nine games to Whitko in the two teams’ sectional preview in South Whitley Monday. The Wildcats took nearly double the amount of games from their Warrior counterparts in Wednesday’s rematch. It wasn’t enough to seriously threaten, but Whitko coach Calvin Sellers was still pleased with the battle he saw after such a short turnover.
“We played Wawasee a couple nights ago, and it was a little harder on us. The way that they were just able to adapt and come out a little bit more confident knowing what to expect against such an experienced team, they have a bright future ahead. Those small bursts will become long rallies that win sets and then win matches,” he said.
Abby Morehead and Tate Cowan gave Wawasee its first match point via a 1-1 decision over Abigail Metz and Bailey Wright at 2 doubles, and Kendra Doerr put away Kayla Schipper 2-0 at 1 singles to give the Warriors their first two match points. After some early trouble at No. 3, Elizabeth Kleopfer cruised through Katherin Ousley in the second set for a 6-4, 6-0 win, giving her team its third match point of the night.
“Elizabeth just was a slow start. She typically doesn’t; she comes out really well,” explained Jackson. “But I think it was just — I don’t know if it’s the logistics of how it’s laid out, and I think being on that back court is a little bit of a disadvantage. But I think it was, again, having played Monday and won fairly easily, maybe she just was thinking ‘Maybe I’m not going to have to put forth a whole lot of effort.’ When I went out and talked to her, I said ‘Look, you’ve got to move your feet. You’ve got to get into the match and hit the shots that you normally hit. You can’t think that the ball is just going to go where you want it to.’ Once I told her that, she basically turned it around and realized, ‘Hey, I’ve got to really participate and move my feet and participate.’ Which she did great, and then she just basically dominated the second set.”
In the next match to finish up, Jacie Thomas and Kylie Fuggett gave Wawasee’s 1 doubles tandem of Molly Jones and Kaitlin Graber a bit of trouble in their second set, but Jones and Graber adjusted to quickly take the last two games from their Whitko opponents and close out a 6-1, 6-3 victory in the wake of a 0-0 shutout on Monday.
“They won fairly easily, and then at the beginning of the second set if you win fairly easily a lot of times you can have a bit of a letdown thinking it’s going to be as easy to win as it was in the first set,” Jackson said. “I got after them as well to say ‘Look, you have to play every single point. You can’t relax. You can’t hold back.’ And they did turn it around and hit a lot better after that.”
Peyton Rookstool’s 6-3, 6-2 win over Mahkinsey Myers completed the shutout as the Warriors advanced to play Warsaw in Thursday’s semifinals, while Tippecanoe Valley plays Columbia City in the other semifinal. Thursday’s Warriors-Tigers semi is a rematch of a Northern Lakes Conference meet earlier this season, when Wawasee fell via narrow, 3-2 decision back on April 26.
The rematch should be an interesting one.
“I think we have a very good shot on all of the singles courts,” said Jackson. “Elizabeth played Warsaw just last week at the NLC Tournament and best her again, so I’m feeling really good about that. Peyton Rookstool won — now their 2 player had an ankle injury so it’ll depend going into tomorrow how healthy she is. And our 1 singles was quite close with Warsaw, too. So I think having come a little bit farther through the season Kendra will give her a really strong match. And our doubles have improved. I know Warsaw is tough at doubles so that’s going to be a big ask for them, but I feel this is the best chance they’ve had all season with the way that they’re playing right now.”