Day of champions
La PORTE — One champion spurred another team to a championship on Saturday.
On the 50th anniversary of La Porte boys tennis team’s coveted state title, it was fitting the Slicers captured their own invitational on the day the 1968 squad was honored.
La Porte outlasted a proficient and pesky South Bend Adams team, 3-2, to earn the Slicer Invitational title, its second own invitational of the campaign, at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park.
“It was awesome to be able to do this in front of the ’68 state champions,” said Slicers No. 1 singles player Andy Emmons. “It felt really good.
“That was part of the, ‘I’m not going to lose this. I’m not going to get down on myself,’ because I wanted this so bad.”
Emmons was involved in the match to determine the invite champion at No. 1 singles. He faced the Eagles’ Tommy Han in a highly-competitive contest.
They split the first two sets with Han claiming the opening set 6-4. Emmons came back and prevailed in the second set, 6-2, to force a decisive third set. Emmons won a deuce point and broke serve to win a hard-fought second set.
In the third set, Emmons held serve to go ahead 1-0 in that set. Han hurt his knee in the fourth game of the third set with Emmons leading 2-1. After a trainer and coach looked at him, Han had to forfeit the rest of the match, so Emmons ended up winning 4-6, 6-2, 2-1 to seal the crown for La Porte.
“I felt really bad for him,” Emmons said. “I know how that feels. That happened to me at Merrillville. It sucks, so I respect him so much for what he did. He couldn’t walk.”
Slicers coach Don Varda was ecstatic after his squad clinched the title.
“We were the underdogs and our kids just fought,” Varda said. “You had a quality Goshen team here that’s very powerful. And you’ve got to give South Bend Adams a tremendous amount of credit. I’m super proud of them.”
La Porte was victorious at both doubles spots to earn two points.
Tristen Poe and Carson Stalbaum beat Michael Dunham and Jonathan Zapf 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
Graham Siefker and Alex Ake defeated Zach Fernandez and Vian Mariani 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles.
“I was just impressed with our doubles,” Varda said. “Our No. 1 doubles team controlled the match. Our No. 2 doubles duo played strong. And of course, Andy Emmons. He was playing a skilled player. This kid is just a terrific athlete. He looked amazing against Goshen. And Andy came out and had a game plan and stuck to the game plan and won the match.”
Quentin Spears dropped his contest at No. 2 singles to Ben Guerrero, 6-0, 6-0. And Liam Wolf fell 6-1, 6-3 to Marty Stoner at No. 3 singles. That tied the match at 2-2, with Emmons then prevailing at No. 1 singles.
After the title match, a ceremony was held to honor the Slicers state title winning 1968 team and La Porte’s No. 1 singles state champion from the same year, Dan Bigg.
Players on that squad were Bigg, Scott Richter, Steve Komp, Jim Samson, Tom Essling, Brian Graham, Richard Friend, Evan Zelden, Chuck Riley, and Tom Ivey. The head coach was the legendary Bob LeRoy.
In Saturday’s first round of the invite, the Slicers downed Lowell 5-0.
Emmons routed Landon Krambeck 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, and at No. 2 singles, Spears beat Chris Overmeyer 6-2, 6-0. Wolf cruised 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3 singles over Logan Fleming, while at No. 1 doubles, Poe and Stalbaum won 6-0, 6-4 over Dawson Hornickel and Joe Gricus. Ake and Siefker prevailed 6-4, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles over Sebastain Dewitt and Scotty Griggs.
In the other opener, South Bend Adams topped Goshen 3-2.
La Porte’s record stands at 12-3.
“Our team made really good decisions,” Varda added. “It warmed my heart. It pleases me to see them make a smart play, instead of trying to over-hit.”