Slicers take two for title
La PORTE — The La Porte boys tennis team was already off to a good start in Saturday’s LeRoy Classic when it captured a 5-0 win over Mishawaka in the morning match.
But facing a significantly tougher Elkhart Central team in the afternoon, Slicers coach Don Varda saw the members of his squad make a noticeable shift in the midst of the match.
“I thought that match was like when a star player on a football team steps up and everything changes,” Varda said. “This team lost to NorthWood 3-2. This is a quality team we played, and I thought my boys played tremendously well.”
Behind a solid effort at singles and doubles, La Porte topped Elkhart Central 3-2 for its second win of the day to earn the title at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park.
Against the Blue Blazers, junior Andy Emmons captured a 6-3, 6-2 win at No. 1 singles; freshman Quentin Spears dropped a hard-fought 6-3, 7-6 (7-4) decision at No. 2 singles, and freshman Liam Wolf won a close 7-5, 7-5 decision at No. 3 singles.
At doubles, sophomore Carson Stalbaum and junior Tristen Poe won at No. 1, 6-4, 6-4, while sophomores Graham Siefker and Alex Ake dropped a marathon 7-6 (11-9), 4-6, 6-3 match at No. 2.
“Liam winning that match was huge, and Quentin played better in his loss,” Varda said. “We have freshmen at No. 2 and No. 3, and they are earning their keep. You have to play through apprehension in matches that are big, and we did that today. These boys are learning how to play in pressure situations.
“Andy came back in the first set after being down. Our No. 1 doubles team is communicating well, and I’m really proud of our No. 2 doubles team.”
Emmons, a first-year player at La Porte, said he was especially challenged in his match against Elkhart Central’s No. 1.
“He was a very good player,” he said. “I was glad that I pulled that one out. They are a very good team. It was a good team win. This has been an awesome experience here at La Porte. These guys take it to a whole new level for me, and it’s awesome to share the season with them.”
Spears said he’s adjusting to his role as a freshman varsity starter.
“It’s challenging, but I’m getting better and more used to the pressure,” he said. “The match against Elkhart Central match was probably the funnest match I’ve played so far.”
In the morning match against Mishawaka, all the singles and doubles won in straight sets. Emmons was victorious 6-1, 6-1, Spears 6-1, 6-1, and Wolf 6-0, 6-3. Stalbaum and Poe won 6-0, 6-1, and Siefker and Ake prevailed 6-1, 6-1.
Varda said that Saturday’s performance is just a reflection of a great reality that he sees existing in the program.
“This is just super exciting for La Porte tennis,” he said. “If you look at the young talent that we have here, you look at the comprehensive coaching staff that we have here, as well as the parents and community support… It’s just an exciting time.
“This was a big day. Bob LeRoy is a legend here. This is the Bob LeRoy Classic, and we always want to win this tournament. We knew Elkhart Central would be tough, and I’m just extremely pleased.”
Splitting matches on Saturday was La Lumiere, who lost 5-0 to Elkhart Central in the morning and bounced back to defeat Mishawaka 4-1 in the afternoon.
Against the Cavemen, Ben Ruszkowski prevailed at No. 1 singles 6-1, 3-6, 6-2. At No. 2 singles, Eric Zhu captured a 6-1, 6-1 victory. Charlie Macri won at No. 3 singles 6-1, 6-4. Donny Lou and Chris Li lost 6-3, 7-5 (7-4) at No. 1 doubles, and Eljay Wilcox and Bill Guo were victorious 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.
“All of our guys didn’t play as much during the summer because they were out of the country,” first-year La Lumiere coach Steve Brandt said. “Half of our team is overseas. Some guys did play, but I love seeing camaraderie with this group.”