Eagles eliminate Plymouth 4-1 at regional tennis championship

CULVER — There’s always a bigger dog. Or Eagle.
Four days after winning its 15th straight Bremen Sectional title, Plymouth ran into regional rival Culver Military Academy. For the sixth straight year, the Eagles eliminated the Pilgrims from the state tourney with a 4-1 defeat for a repeat regional championship in their first year hosting the tournament stage at the Gable Tennis Complex Wednesday.
“The farther you advance, you run into teams that just have more experience at singles. Our guys don’t know anything different than to fight hard and play hard,” said Plymouth Head Boys Tennis Coach Michael Delp. “Their will is strong, but sometimes when you don’t have the experience, you don’t have the shots, it just makes it difficult. At their top three singles, they hit the ball at a pace and they practice against that all the time. Our guys are more conservative, kind of keep the ball in play, try to force errors or make guys get frustrated, and those guys just have enough weapons that it makes it tough to execute that kind of game plan. So now you’ve got to jump into a situation where you’re uncomfortable; maybe it’s a mode you haven’t played in before, you have to try to go for shots you normally don’t, and it just becomes a tough task.”
“Hat’s off to CMA, they definitely played well and didn’t really give us a crack,” added Delp. “You really try to get them in some pressure situations, maybe win a couple first sets, see how they respond, and they were pretty relaxed from the get-go.”
If CMA’s lineup seemed relaxed from the outset, it’s because they’d been there before.
Five of the team’s top seven were on last season’s Clay Regional championship squad, including senior tri-captains Wilson Wu, Will Stackhouse and Jack Mitzell, who earned respective straight-set victories at 1 and 2 singles and 2 doubles Wednesday.
“We had the pieces in place, and I think there was an advantage given our school situation, that our three captains not only are outstanding leaders, but also Hoosiers,” said CMA head coach Alan Loehr. “So they understand about sectionals, regionals, semistate and could relay that to the other kids who are not familiar with the Indiana format. I think that was as important as any of the match play, that mind-set in knowing what the format was and relaying that to the kids so that we could put gravitas on the matches.”
While the match remained close for the first 20 minutes, Culver No. 2 Eric Maudhuit and 2 doubles tandem Mitzell and Aaron Arvizu began pulling away from their Plymouth counterparts to give the rest of the Eagles lineup some breathing room en route to eventual straight-set victories and the team win.
“I thought the match was going to hinge on how well we did at 2 singles and how well we did at 2 doubles, and the first 15 or 20 minutes, both of those matches were closer than I would’ve like,” said Loehr. “But those kids played well today, and I think the scores going away are indicative of the way they played. They pulled away, and I think that took pressure off Wilson (Wu) because Gabe (Vervynckt) was playing tooth and nail, and a couple shots here or there, he could’ve been in that match.”
Plymouth’s lone win came at 1 doubles, where Jordan Scheetz and Connor Flynn handed Quinlan Smith and Jorge Segura a 7-5, 6-2 defeat to advance alone in the individual state tennis tournament. The duo will play Northern Lakes Conference-rival Warsaw’s A.J. Herendeen and Sam Rice — who beat Maconaquah’s Adam Harts and Chris Ayers in straight sets at CMA Tuesday — for the third time this season today at the Gable Complex at 4:30 p.m.
“It’ll be competitive. It’s Plymouth-Warsaw, and I know our guys won’t have any problem being motivated for that,” said Delp. “They’re playing pretty well right now. They’re both serving pretty well. They’ve both made tremendous strides as far as just understanding when to be aggressive and when not to be. Valuing putting the ball in play with their returns, not trying to hit every return as hard as they can. They’ve really made strides in those areas, and that’s kind of propelled them into where they’re at right now, which is one of the top teams in the area.”
The 25th-ranked Eagles now move to 15-5 and will play No. 11 Penn at the first-ever CMA Semistate Saturday at 10 a.m., while top-ranked Carmel plays No. 9 Munster in the other semifinal with the championship slated for later in the day. Tickets for the final eight round of the team state tennis tourney are $5 per person.
“We’re obviously pleased to be in a position to win a regional championship in our first year hosting by virtue of having a competitive team,” said Loehr. “We’ve got a little bit of the luck of the draw that we’ve put together a team that can run through and represent us not only by winning the regional but also when we host the semistate, it’s nice to be on your home court. So that’s a feeling we have never had. It’s a feeling that I think some of the bigger programs get more often than we do, so let’s see if we can make it advantageous.”
Plymouth bows out of the tournament with a 15-4 final record and bids good-bye to seniors Lane Singleton and Luke Bumpus.
“Every year we have aspirations, expectations, and for our four seniors — Connor and Jordan are obviously still playing — but what a great group of guys that carried on tradition,” said Delp. “Gave us a chance to win a conference title again this year, won another sectional. Just carried on the tradition that we like to hold onto. I told them I appreciate that. It’s a tradition that sometimes you take for granted… but it is special and it is something to praise them for and to realize it is important and they did it well, so I’m very appreciative of that.”
“Mike and (Assistant Coach) Brad (Haeck), their kids always play with heart,” said Loehr. “There’s always an ‘I don’t like to lose’ attitude in the way they conduct themselves, all in the right way. You just know that you’re going to get into a fight out here with them, and I think it’s a credit to the coaches and I think it’s a credit to the community that their expectations are very high in the way their kids compete. We probably were a more talented team, but we don’t take this for granted.”
At Culver Academies Tennis Regional Championship
Singles: 1. Wilson Wu (CMA) beat Gabe Vervynckt 6-2, 6-1; Eric Maudhuit (CMA) beat Lane Singleton 6-3, 6-1; 3. Will Stackhouse (CMA) beat Luke Bumpus 6-0, 6-0
Doubles: 1. Jordan Scheetz-Connor Flynn (P) beat Quinlan Smith-Jorge Segura 7-5, 6-2.; 2. Jack Mitzell-Aaron Arvizu (CMA) beat Matt Flynn-Joe Knapp 7-5, 6-2
Records: CMA 15-5, Plymouth 15-4 (final)
Non-team singles: Derek Hinan (Columbia City) beat Nick Kindig (Tippecanoe Valley), 4-6, 6-2, 6-3