PLYMOUTH — After a pair of tough conference losses to Warsaw and Concord, every win in the NLC is a big win for Plymouth’s boys tennis team.
The Pilgrims stayed competitive in the Northern Lakes Conference standings with a 4-1 defeat of visiting Goshen at home Thursday.
“You want to be peaking at the right time, and I feel like we’re doing that on most courts,” said Plymouth tennis coach Michael Delp. “The guys knew something’s got to change here. We’ve lost to Kokomo, Warsaw and Concord, all 3-2 losses, winnable matches. In some ways we just… kind of laid down a little bit and weren’t really even competitive in some of those matches like we traditionally are.
“My challenge was let’s get in some of those where it’s 2-2 and you feel that pressure. That’s why you play — to get into those competitive pressure moments. Our guys are responding.”
After senior top flighter Gabe Vervynckt’s quick 6-0, 6-0 victory over Austin Stutzman at 1 singles and John Hunter’s 6-0, 6-2 win over Hudson Kay at 3 singles and with the Pilgrims up a set on the remaining three courts, Thursday’s match became momentarily interesting when Matt Flynn and Jack Holloway dropped their second set at 1 doubles, 6-4, to Goshen’s Sylas Buller and Sam Stegelmann, and Adam Bratten handed Plymouth’s Tom Felke a 6-3 loss in the second set of 2 singles play. But the Pilgrims’ 2 doubles tandem of Kameron Eisehour and Kendall Fosler ended the drama when they closed out their match with Derick Hostetler and Zach Granger 7-5, 6-2 for Plymouth’s third match point and the team win.
Flynn and Holloway later rebounded to claim a 6-2 victory in the third set and trump Buller and Stegelman, 6-3, 4-6, 6-2, for the Pilgrims’ final point of the meet.
“There was a feeling as I’m sitting there… we’d won all first sets, but you could just tell it wasn’t over,” said Delp. “Sometimes high school kids kind of look at courts and are like ‘Well, we won the first set, we’re alright,’ but it wasn’t over. We did a nice job closing out a few matches. Two doubles did a nice job of that. They’re up 4-3 then get down 5-4 in the first set and then come back and get that 7-5. That was a big moment. They were definitely very solid at both doubles tonight.”
The Pilgrims sustained a pair of 3-2 losses to Warsaw and Concord Aug. 30 and Sep. 6 but have since rattled off two straight NLC wins over Elkhart Memorial Tuesday and the Redskins Thursday to stay in the hunt for a top conference finish with the NLC meet looming next Wednesday.
“There’s a little more parity in the conference this year than maybe there has been in past years,” said Delp. “Memorial makes it that way; Goshen always puts up a good fight. There’s a couple teams — NorthWood and Wawasee — probably kind of on the struggling end this year. But, yeah, the top six could go either way.”
Flynn’s and Holloway’s 1 doubles victory may have special ramifications for next week’s conference meet as the duo handed Buller and Stegelmann just their second loss in NLC play.
“It puts us in the mix for one of the top four seeds, and I don’t think there’s any way we couldn’t finish in a two, three match-up,” said Delp. “I think they’re all balanced, so really it’s just one of those things where you want to get one of those top seeds and try and draw a team that in theory you should beat in the first round.”
The Pilgrims play host to a four-team field in a home invitational this Saturday at 10 a.m., then close out the NLC round robin at Northridge Monday.
“We’ve got a tough match against Northridge on Monday night up there, and they’ve got a nice team. If we can somehow finish third, it’s happened before, but we definitely put ourselves in a tough spot. But we’re going to control what we can control and give ourselves a chance in the conference tournament,” said Delp.
“We’re looking forward to that. Northridge got us here last year; they’re definitely a dangerous team, a balanced team. We need to finish that off to give us that outside chance to maybe give us that outside chance to do something fun at that conference tournament.”
• PLYMOUTH 4, GOSHEN 1
SINGLES: 1. Gabe Vervynckt (P) beat Austin Stutzman 6-0, 6-0; 2. Adam Bratten (G) beat Tom Felke 4-6, 6-3, 6-1; 3. John Hunter (P) beat Hudson Kay 6-0, 6-2.
DOUBLES: 1. Matt Flynn-Jack Holloway (P) beat Sylas Buller-Sam Stegelmann 6-3, 4-6, 6-2; 2. Kameron Eisehour-Kendall Fosler (P) beat Derick Hostetler-Zach Granger 7-5, 6-2.
Record: Plymouth 9-3 (4-2 NLC)
JV score: Plymouth 9, Goshen 1