AP NEWS

Step one done

May 17, 2019

MICHIGAN CITY — After building toward this point all season, La Porte’s girls tennis team was eager to finally seize the moment on Thursday.

While it’s simply the first step in what the Slicers hope is a deep postseason run, unbeaten La Porte was still satisfied to continue a perfect season with a sectional title, beating New Prairie 5-0 in the La Porte Sectional final at the Northwest Athletic Club. It’s the Slicers’ fifth consecutive sectional crown.

“It feels amazing,” La Porte’s No. 1 doubles player Emma Keene said. “I’ve been working so hard the entire offseason.

“We have worked so hard and all of that has paid off.”

Rain forced the match to be moved indoors to the NAC in Michigan City.

It didn’t seem to affect the Slicers one bit.

To begin the match, La Porte (21-0) raced out to early leads at every position, except No. 2 doubles. And that was only because four courts were available, so the No. 2 doubles contest had to wait until one of the other matches finished.

Rachel Kaminski and Allison Varda were especially effective at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. They each built early 3-0 cushions in their opening sets. And Alaina Majors at No. 1 singles and Keene and Jory Bales at No. 1 doubles pulled away later in their first sets. That allowed La Porte to take control against the Cougars (14-8) and it was never seriously challenged at any spot.

“It’s very gratifying,” Slicers coach Don Varda said. “Mrs. (Beth) LeRoy had us over to her house for lunch in the preseason and showed the girls all the accomplishments of (former La Porte) coach Bob LeRoy. She showed the girls the history he created. It was really special for them and special for me for us to try and emulate that success.”

Even though his squad fell, New Prairie coach Joel Hostetler was still proud for what it achieved this campaign and admitted the Cougars ran into a buzzsaw.

“Congratulations to La Porte,” Hostetler said. “They’re a very good team. We played very well. We had a great season.

“Their girls play year-round for the most part, not all of them but most of them do. And they work hard at it.”

At No. 2 singles, Kaminski downed Anna Holvoet 6-0, 6-2 to earn the Slicers’ first point.

Holvoet trimmed the deficit to 3-2 in the second set, then Kaminski seized command, not losing another game. Kaminski stayed undefeated on the year, improving to 24-0.

“Rachel hits the short ball harder with pace,” coach Varda said. “Rachel is becoming more and more comfortable to play at the level she’s capable of playing at. Because she plays at a high level now. And this year more than any year, I’ve seen her perform at that higher level, which is putting your nerves aside, putting everything aside. Being able to hit your shots at that higher level.”

Keene and Bales, meanwhile, defeated Emmy Kirkham and Hannah Pittman 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1 doubles.

Kirkham and Pittman were down just 3-2 in the first set before Keene and Bales won deuce point and the next three games to capture that set.

Later, after breaking serve, Keene and Bales went ahead 5-0 in the second set.

“Emma and I together worked really well,” Bales said. “We focused on what we knew how to do, and then, we also wanted to make sure we didn’t give up too much. But we also were aggressive. That’s what helped us most.”

Allison Varda finished her match at No. 3 singles at virtually the same time La Porte’s No. 1 doubles duo won. Varda rolled 6-0, 6-2 over Sydney Moody.

At No. 1 singles, Majors topped Megan Boyd 6-1, 6-2.

Boyd cut the margin to 3-2 in the second set, then Majors pulled away.

The Slicers’ singles players improved to a remarkable 67-3 this season. Besides Kaminski, Allison Varda upped her record to 23-1, while Majors is now 20-2.

Aniya Kennedy and Molly Reed closed the contest by cruising 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles over N.P.’s Naomi Paprocki and Brianna Wilson.

“We came out and played real hard,” coach Varda said. “Our work during the offseason showed up.”

La Porte next faces South Bend St. Joseph in the Slicers’ own four-team regional at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Indians beat South Bend Riley 5-0 to win their own sectional.

While the Slicers advance, the Cougars say goodbye to five varsity seniors, Boyd, Holvoet, Moody, Kirkham, and Maggie Troy. They helped guide the team to 14 victories, some signature wins and the sectional finals appearance.

“Considering I didn’t even know if we’d finish .500 this year at the start of the season, overall, we did pretty well,” Hostetler said. “We got beat by good teams. All of the teams who beat us were good teams. We won the matches we should win and we snuck in a couple good wins.”