Lions in it to win at NSC tourney

BREMEN — Last year Bremen’s girls tennis team split the Northern State Conference title with Jimtown. Not that they’re greedy, but this year’s Lady Lions would like nothing better than to keep the NSC championship all to themselves.
Bremen took a big step toward that goal at DeSantis Courts Thursday night, when the Lions won both of their conference tournament openers.
The Lions No. 2 doubles tandem of Heidi Prawat and Haley Moren beat John Glenn’s Leah Kaser and Rachel Lawson in straight 6-1 sets, and Haley Foster and Cassie Sears won a big three-setter over New Prairie’s Lisa Fischer and Allison Marley in a pivotal swing match at 1 doubles. With Bremen slightly ahead of New Prairie headed into Thursday with a perfect 6-0 round robin slate ahead of the Cougars’ 5-1 head-to-head record, the match helped put some early distance between the two teams at the tourney.
“We shared with Jimtown last year so winning it by ourselves is a big deal,” said Bremen girls tennis coach Andrew Rohde. “And even though we have three 1 seeds and two 2 seeds it doesn’t mean we’re going to win it. Case in point, that match tonight at 1 doubles, we had a tough match — New Prairie played great. If we lose that match, things are up for grabs, so that was a big win for us to keep pushing ourselves forward in the draw.”
Foster’s and Sears’ split-set win echoed an earlier three-setter over Fischer and Marley in round robin play on April 26 in which the Lions won 4-6, 7-5, 6-3. On Thursday, they jumped ahead in the first set with a 7-6(7) tiebreaker win before dropping the second set 6-2. They switched up their style in the deciding third set for a quick 6-1 win and the right to advance.
“We really changed our style of play,” said Rohde of the third set at 1 doubles. “We were lobbing a lot in that first and second set, and New Prairie was doing a great job of hitting some high balls and really pounding the ball well. We decided to change our strategy a little bit and hit more ground strokes and didn’t lob the ball as much. Our girls did a great job adjusting with that.”
While Bremen advanced with wins on both doubles courts, the Lions’ three singles players also advance to the semifinals Saturday with byes.
No. 1 Morgan Smith advances to play Triton’s Kaelyn Mason after Mason’s 6-1, 6-0 win over Jimtown’s Brooke Janowski Thursday, while Bremen No. 2 Alexa Harshbarger will play another Triton opponent in Carrie Slabaugh after her 6-1, 6-2 win over Jimtown’s Amy Lehner, and Andrea Strehler will face off against John Glenn’s Julia Jacobson following Jacobson’s 7-5, 6-4 win over the Jimmies’ Madison Mawhorter.
Triton, which finished up round robin play at an even 3-3, also advanced to the semifinals at 1 doubles, where Marissa Ross and Holly Stogsdill beat LaVille’s Alexis Kertai and Kayla Hoober 6-3, 6-1 to move on to play Foster and Sears Saturday.
Meanwhile in 2 doubles play for the Trojans, Cassie Irons and Shayla May bounced back from a tough 6-4, 6-1 loss to Knox’s Kylie Bridegroom and Jenna Landrum with an 8-0 back draw win over Glenn’s Leah Kaser and Rachel Lawson following their 6-1, 6-1 loss to Moren and Prawat. Michal Scherer-Berry retired with a presumed sprained ankle in a loss to Knox’s Brittany Fletcher at 3 singles as Triton finished 4-2 on the first day of the NSCs. Tira Fakes will fill in for Scherer-Berry in the back draw round Saturday versus LaVille’s Tabitha Lymburner.
“My 1 and 2 singles and 1 doubles played really well tonight, so they advance,” said Triton coach Allen Peckham. “The good and bad about the 1 and 2 singles is they play the number 1 seeds of Bremen. (Lions No. 1) Morgan Smith is an excellent player. Kaelyn I thought played well with her (in the round robin), but she’s just a tough player and that’s the draw. Now Carrie, when she played the girl from Bremen she lost in three sets, so there’s a chance there that we can probably throw an upset there.”
“We finished fourth in the round robin, and it looks like we’re going to be in shape for fourth here in this tournament,” added Peckham. “But if we get a couple upsets, then we may bump up to third, you just never know.”
While Bremen went 6-0 and New Prairie went 5-1 in round robin play, Knox finished up 4-2 in third place ahead of Triton. The Lady Redskins stayed in the hunt for a top finish in the NSCs Thursday with Fletcher’s victory over Scherer-Berry at 3 singles and Bridegroom’s and Landrum’s win over Irons and Shayla May as well as Kelsey Thomas’ 7-5, 6-3 win over Glenn’s Yuma Yabuta at 1 singles and Kayla Bailey’s 6-1, 6-0 win over LaVille’s Kaitlyn Haisely at 2 singles. Knox’s 1 doubles team also advances to Saturday’s semis as Chelsea Collins and Miranda Shepherd drew the bye and wait to face Glenn’s Ally Pudlo and Kyler Columbia — 6-1, 6-1 winners over Jimtown’s Kelsey Weinkauf and Amber Miller Thursday.
Glenn’s victory at 1 doubles was one of two tournament-opening wins for the Lady Falcons along with Jacobson’s straight-set victory at 3 singles. The team finished up head-to-head play ranked last in the field at 0-6 with LaVille a notch ahead of them at 1-5 after Glenn reported on itself for an academic ineligibility issue and was forced to forfeit a 3-2 win over the Lancers on April 25.
The Glenn win was the first NSC victory for the Lady Lancers in recent memory, and while the team lost on all courts Thursday, this year’s young squad is much improved from previous LaVille teams.
Haisley lost her opener with Knox’s Bailey but bounced back with a win over Glenn’s Brittnie Spornhauer in the back draw at 2 singles for LaVille’s only win of the night.
Bailey Frick extended New Prairie’s Rianna Sass to nine games in the first set and took four games from the Cougars’ No. 1 before succumbing 6-3, 6-1 at DeSantis Courts, while Alexis Kertai and Kayla Hoober did the same to Ross and Stogsdill at 1 doubles, and Kelsi Wattts and Katie Simmons went 12 games with Jimtown’s Maggie Farwig and Steph Aller in the first set Thursday, ultimately coming up short in a very competitive 7-5, 6-4 defeat at 2 doubles.
They may not be the wins the Lancers are looking for yet, but this season has been one to grow on for LaVille.
“We played really competitive today and with Kaitlyn winning that back draw hopefully we can get some nice wins and get into that fifth spot,” said LaVille coach Michael Sumpter.
“Individually we’ve gotten some wins, so that’s big for us. What’s really important for us looking at our conference is, we are so young —everyone has only played for two years — and the cool thing is that’s where we’re at right now. We’ve got two more years to go with some of those kids and we’ve only got two juniors. So the team in the future is going to be really, really bright.”
At DeSantis Courts in Bremen
No. 1
Kaelyn Mason (Triton) beat Brooke Janowski (Jimtown) 6-1, 6-0; Kelsey Thomas (Knox) beat Yuma Yabuta (Glenn) 7-5, 6-3; Riana Sass (New Prairie) beat Bailey Frick (LaVille) 6-3, 6-1.
No. 2
Carrie Slabaugh (Triton) beat Amy Lehner (Jimtown) 6-1, 6-2; Kayla Bailey (Knox) beat Kaityln Haisley (LaVille) 6-1, 6-0; Olivia Kuczmanski beat Brittnie Spornhauer (Glenn) 6-0, 6-0.
No. 3
Julia Jacobson (Glenn) beat Madison Mawhorter (Jimtown) 7-5, 6-4; Nicole Vanheste (New Prairie) beat Tabitha Lymburner (LaVille) 6-1, 6-0; Brittany Fletcher (Knox) beat Michal Scherer-Berry (Triton) *retire.
No. 1
Ally Pudlo-Kyler Columbia (Glenn) beat Kelsey Weinkauf-Amber Miller (Jimtown) 6-1, 6-1; Marissa Ross-Holly Stogsdill (Triton) beat Alexis Kertai-Kayla Hoober (LaVille) 6-3, 6-1; Haley Foster-Cassie Sears (Bremen) beat Lisa Fischer-Allison Marley (New Prairie) 7-6(7), 2-6, 6-1; Kelsey Weinkauf-Amber Miller (Jimtown) beat Alexis Kertai-Kayla Hoober (LaVille) 8-3.
No. 2
Maggie Farwig-Steph Aller (Jimtown) beat Kelsi Watts-Katie Simmons (LaVille) 7-5, 6-4; Kylie Bridegroom-Jenna Landrum (Knox) beat Cassie Irons-Shayla May (Triton) 6-4, 6-1; Heidi Prawat-Haley Moren (Bremen) beat Leah Kaser-Rachel Lawson (Glenn) 6-1, 6-1; Cassie Irons-Shayla May (Triton) beat Leah Kaser-Rachel Lawson (Glenn) 8-0.