Postseason pressure

September 27, 2018

La PORTE — One match was a shutout. The other was highly competitive.

In the end, Michigan City and New Prairie advanced to today’s La Porte Boys Tennis Sectional final.

The Wolves dispatched cross-town rival Marquette 5-0, while the Cougars edged the defending sectional champion Slicers 3-2 in Wednesday’s semifinals at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park.

New Prairie’s Josh Ferrell outlasted good friend and La Porte freshman Quentin Spears in a marathon match, 6-4, 4-6, 7-5, at No. 2 singles to clinch the victory that sent the Cougars to the finals.

“It feels great, not only as a win, but me and him are good friends,” Ferrell said. “I’m glad we could share this, it’s a good friendship.”

Ferrell was dealing with Charlie horses on the upper thigh of both legs during the latter half of his match, yet prevailed, capturing the last two games of the third set after it was tied 5-5.

“I gave it all I had in the third set,” he said. “I played everything I had. Even injured, I give it everything I had. It was the toughest match all season.”

New Prairie (18-3) avenged a 3-2 regular-season loss to the Slicers (16-6) to add to its school record for wins.

“We knew it was going to be very close,” La Porte coach Don Varda said. “And we have a young team here. Our kids do not have a lot of experience. They haven’t played in pressure-cooker matches like this. It came down to experience, and New Prairie had a little bit more experience than us.”

The Cougars’ Wrigley Hemphill prevailed 6-3, 6-3 at No. 3 singles over Liam Wolf, and at No. 1 doubles, Levi Britton and Joe Henning beat Carson Stalbaum and Tristen Poe 7-5, 6-4.

The Slicers’ Andy Emmons downed Nick Boyd 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, and at No. 2 doubles, Alex Ake and Graham Siefker topped Colten Kitchen and Isaac Kuczmanski 6-2, 6-3.

Ake and Siefker’s victory tied the match at 2. Ferrell then topped Spears, taking control early in the decisive third set. He broke serve to go ahead 2-1, and never trailed the rest of their hard-fought match, claiming the third set 7-5.

“Both players played fantastic, and I hate to see either one of them lose,” N.P. coach Joel Hostetler said. “There were rallies that were 60 or 70 shots, and it was almost a three-hour match. That’s a great team we just beat.”

In City’s win, Devon Stromer defeated Sean Bardol 6-1, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, while Danny Walker Jr. rolled 6-0, 6-0 over Cormack Bardol at No. 2. Connor Reynolds downed Reagan Hendricks 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 to seal the Wolves’ victory. At No. 1 doubles, Tommy Komay and Christoph Walker were victorious 6-4, 6-0 over Aidan McDonnell and Brendan Mack, while John Bruning and Bohdan Walker topped freshmen Riggs Bardol and Colin Thompson, 6-3, 6-2, at No. 2.

City (8-9) also beat the Blazers 5-0 on Monday.

“They played us tough on Monday,” Wolves coach Mike Tsugawa said. “And actually, for that matter, very tough today, especially in doubles in the first set. I was glad we were able to close those out. The singles sweep was a pleasant surprise, it’s not something we do real often. I’m happy for the whole team right now.”

On the other side, there was a different sentiment for the Blazers (3-11).

“We’re a young and inexperienced team,” Marquette coach Ray Silvas said. “We knew this year was going to be a learning experience and we were going to take our lumps. All you can really do is ask for them to give a good effort and hustle, and they did that.”

Tsugawa was proud of his No. 2 doubles duo of Bruning and Bohdan Walker, plus Stromer at No. 1 singles.

“No. 2 doubles was certainly nice and straightforward in the second set,” Tsugawa said. “We played a tiebreaker against Marquette’s No. 2 doubles team on Monday. Devon was very, very business-like. He didn’t serve well on Monday, and that kind of got him down, and the rest of his game sort of went with it. But he played very clean today.”

La Porte’s Emmons advanced in the individual singles state tournament.

“We have everybody coming back,” Varda said. “We have freshmen playing at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. We have some sophomores who were just terrific for us. The bright spots are Andy’s still in the tournament. And I was really pleased with our No. 2 doubles team, they came out and played really well.”

Today’s final is at 4:30.

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