La PORTE — Down 2-5 in the second set after rolling through the first set with a 6-1 triumph, La Porte freshman Quentin Spears had to find that aggressiveness and attacking style that won him the opening set at No. 2 singles.
With a regained confidence and some extra eyes and cheers focused on his match, Spears battled back from three games down with a 5-0 run to clinch the match in straight sets over Michigan City’s Danny Walker.
“It was a tough opponent,” Spears said after the win. “He [Walker] kept hitting it back like a wall, slicing it back ... I just had to be patient, find my shot and hit it back with a good swing and hope he makes a mistake.”
In the first of two county rivalry matchups between La Porte and Michigan City on Thursday night in La Porte, the Slicers took home a 4-1 team victory over the rival Wolves thanks to Spears’ 6-1, 7-5 comeback of sorts that helped seal the win.
“Quentin is a good player,” Wolves coach Mike Tsugawa said. “He’s a heck of a freshman. He’s got the complete package. Watching that was like watching a boxer who’s 10 pounds heavier and an inch taller. Eventually, you’re gonna lose.”
Not many were happier for the freshman and his victory more than his coach.
“Quentin has made a lot of improvements,” Slicers coach Don Varda said. “I’m really proud of Quentin. He’s coming in here as a freshman on a big stage, playing in front of a lot of people. He’s battling those nerves and working on new things on the court and he’s done a real nice job with all of it.”
The three other winners for La Porte were Andy Emmons at No. 1 singles (6-2, 6-0), Tristen Poe at No. 3 singles (6-1, 6-1) and Carson Stalbaum/Liam Wolf at No. 2 doubles (6-1, 6-4). Michigan City’s Tommy Komay and Christoph Walker won the lone match of the evening for the Wolves at No. 1 doubles (6-3, 4-6, 6-4).
“We started out really strong in singles,” Varda said. “Tristen came out and looked good. Andy came out and looked great. Quentin looked great in the first set. As far as the doubles are concerned, I thought Michigan City played well. They got to the net more than we did. They made more plays than we did and that’s why they won the match at No. 1 doubles.”
For the Wolves, the overall team loss drops them to .500 on the season at 4-4. One of the few focal points of improvement for Tsugawa is pre-match preparation, tough environment or not.
“You can’t work yourself into a match against a good Duneland team and La Porte is certainly that,” Tsugawa said. “They’re better than last year. Coach Varda’s a good coach. He always has his guys ready to play and they’re particularly tough to play at home. This place has a huge home-court advantage.”
Along with a proper level of preparation stepping off the bus before matches, Tsugawa wants to see his guys on the move non-stop as soon as they set foot on the court moving forward.
“Doing small things right,” Tsugawa said on the biggest thing the rest of the season for the Wolves. “Always bouncing on the feet. There are small things in tennis like a split-step. It’s not about how you swing the racket. It’s about how ready you are to receive the ball. You see the La Porte guys always bouncing up and down, even when they’re hitting practice strokes. When you’re playing a tough road match and you’re a bit intimidated, the first thing that stops is the feet.”