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BREMEN â€” With 15 straight championships, it' would be easy to start to start taking Plymouth's sectional ascendancy for granted.
But there was nothing preordained about the Pilgrims' title win Friday evening, as the host Lions gave them all they could handle before succumbing 4-1 in Plymouth's 16th-straight tennis sectional championship at DeSantis Courts.
"I'm proud of our guys, they really did battle," said Plymouth head tennis coach Michael Delp. "You like to talk about not letting the nerves get to you, but it's part of it. They know the tradition, but not all of them have experienced that kind of pressure either. You've got five guys that have never played in a sectional championship before. They just know that they've won a few. I thought our guys responded well because Bremen's a good team."
"It definitely feels great because I definitely didn't want to be one of the ones that broke it," said Plymouth senior No. 1 singles player Gabe Vervynckt. "Feels nice getting it done all four years. Hopefully we can make this into a state record at some point."
Vervynckt, a steady producer for Plymouth throughout the year at No. 1, gave the Pilgrims their first match point with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Bremen's Brad Foster. The other lone holdover from last year's squad, Matt Flynn claimed the defending champs their second point with a 6-4, 6-1 win over Jalen Bayer at No. 2 singles.
Jack Holloway and Kendall Fosler battled back from a second set loss to trump Bremen's Nate Strehler and Joe Zeltwanger 6-3, 3-6, 6-1 at 1 doubles and seal Plymouth the win.
"Matches like this literally come down to a couple points â€” a deuce point, an advantage â€” and if you can win those couple points and swing the set, it can change a match. That's what happened tonight," said Delp.
While the Lions were unable to knock off the longtime reigning champions in their fourth straight championship meeting, they could take solace in a very competitive showing Friday as Strehler and Zeltwanger extended their opponents to three sets, Wes Burkholder handed Plymouth freshman John Hunter a 12-game loss in the first set before falling 5-7, 6-2, 6-2 at 3 singles, and Krent Hueni and Tommy Foster beat Kameron Eisenhour and Ryan Johnson in another three-setter at 2 doubles, 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.
"We played well," said Bremen coach Andrew Rohde. "It's tough to lose when you're somewhat close, but we played well and that's what we've got to have our minds set on, and we've got to hold our heads high because we did play well. They played better, and that's the story."
While Plymouth advances opposite two-time defending regional champ Culver Military Academy at the CMA Regional next week, Bremen bows out at 14-6 â€” the best record in Rohde's eight years at the helm of the program â€” with a Northern State Conference runner-up finish. The team loses five of its top seven in Foster, Bayer and Burkholder as well as Strehler and Zeltwanger.
"We somehow just keep reloading and hopefully that continues to happen for us," Rohde said. "But the seniors did a great job for us. This year was a lot better than what I thought it was going to be win/ loss-wise so the credit goes to those guys for working at it and not giving up. We competed for a conference championship with Jimtown, who had everybody back, so I was proud of that."
â€˘ PLYMOUTH 4, BREMEN 1
SINGLES: 1. Gabe Vervynckt (P) beat Brad Foster 6-2, 6-0; 2. Matt Flynn (P) beat Jalen Bayer 6-4, 6-1; 3. John Hunter (P) beat Wes Burkholder 5-7, 6-2, 6-2
DOUBLES: 1. Jack Holloway-Kendall Fosler (P) beat Nate Strehler-Joe Zeltwanger 6-3, 3-6, 6-1; 2. Krenten Hueni-Tommy Foster (B) beat Kameron Eisenhour-Ryan Johnson 6-3, 4-6, 6-1
Records: Plymouth 14-4, Bremen 14-6 (final)
1 Doubles: Jeff Ross-Pete Kauffman (Triton)
1 Doubles: Jack Holloway-Kendall Fosler (Plymouth)
1 Singles: Gabe Vervynckt (Plymouth)