21 and done
La PORTE — “The greatest team I’ve ever had.”
That’s how La Porte girls tennis coach Don Varda described his current group of girls after their 5-0 defeat at the hands of 2018 state finalist South Bend St. Joseph in the La Porte Regional semifinals Wednesday evening at the LeRoy Courts.
And why wouldn’t he?
Despite their 21-match winning streak coming to a close after a dominating performance that saw the Indians surrender just 14 games across the five matches played, Varda was more than prideful about his team’s accomplishments coming into their own regional.
The Slicers were able to complete an undefeated season for the first time in 41 years to become the outright Duneland Athletic Conference champion for the first time in 40 seasons, while also extending their sectional title streak to five years last week in convincing fashion.
“You can’t take anything away from St. Joe today,” Varda said. “They’re a great team. They’re so well coached. (Coach) Bill Mountford has them hovering around that final eight at state every single season. They had more experience than we did and it showed. When you start making quantum leaps as a player and as a team, you start seeing those notches on the ladder get harder and harder to reach. We lost to them 3-2 last year. This year, it was 5-0, but when I looked at their lineup and I know their girls ... they haven’t budged more than an inch (losing current DePaul player Maddie Yergler). They answered the call.”
Kayla Graham and Jaclyn Voss rolled to put the first point on the scoreboard for St. Joseph at No. 1 doubles with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over La Porte’s Jory Bales and Emma Keene.
“They were such a strong pair,” Bales said. “They’re so strong not just with their muscle on the court, but in their mind, knowing where to play the ball. I don’t think we did that bad against them, but they definitely earned it. They beat us. Good luck to them for the rest of their season and I hope they win state.”
Nicole Pascual, who moved up from No. 1 doubles a year ago to take Yergler’s place following her departure, followed suit with her teammates and defeated Alaina Majors, 6-1, 6-0. Allison Varda lost 4-6 in the opening set against Alayna Campbell and then trailing 0-3 in the second set, retired due to illness to clinch the match for St. Joseph. Kathryn Borders and Kalyn Borger defeated Aniya Kennedy and Molly Reed 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles, while Rachel Kaminski fell at No. 2 singles to Katherine Bellia 7-5, 6-1 to complete the sweep for St. Joseph.
“I give my girls all the credit in the world regardless of what happened today,” Varda said. “We had our issues earlier in the year with injuries. Aniya (Kennedy) had her foot in a boot for a while, and with the rain and snow, these girls still came to practice and they’re all 4.0 students, too. They put in the work and earned everything that happened this year. When you look at what they’ve accomplished, it’s pretty impressive. When you’re finishing a regular season undefeated for the first time in 41 years, that’s Bob LeRoy stuff. When you’re emulating stuff that he did here, that’s something pretty special.”
Bales will return with a good chance that her senior season brings her a fourth different doubles partner in her four seasons at La Porte, but the bond she had with Keene at No. 1 doubles all season and with her teammates is something that she thinks will be hard to replicate next year.
“This year meant a lot,” Bales said. “All the girls on the team, I love them. Each year, it gets better. Each year, I say I can’t ask for a better team because we’re all so close. We had a great season. I feel like we’re so close and we cheer from each other from court-to-court, which I think has helped us all season. Even when we lose a match or something, we’re still a really high-energy team and we love playing with each other.”
La Porte Girls Tennis Regional
South Bend St. Joseph 5, La Porte 0
The Indians will face Penn in Thursday’s final.