BREMEN — Sandwiched between the NSC Tournament championships Monday and a potential meeting with perennial sectional champion Plymouth tonight, Bremen’s first round sectional match-up with LaVille would have been an easy one for the Lady Lions to overlook.
After all, the Bremen Sectional hosts hadn’t lost to the Lancers in recent memory; they’d swept them just three weeks ago in round robin NSC play en route to the conference championship. But looking too far ahead is nearly always a mistake, especially against a team that has been making steady progress throughout the year.
Bremen didn’t get off to its best start, and the upstart Lancers continued to show improvement since the two teams’ last head-to-head meeting, but in the end history repeated itself as the Lions swept their guests on all courts to advance opposite the 12-time defending champion Pilgrims today. John Glenn plays Triton in the other semifinal at DeSantis Courts scheduled to begin at 4:30 p.m., with the finals set for Friday.
“We wanted to be ready to play LaVille because they’re a good team, and anything can happen,” said Bremen head tennis coach Andrew Rohde. “They play well, and they’re well-coached, so we just needed to really focus on today and take care of business.
“As a coach it’s hard and as a player it’s hard to do that, but we don’t get to tomorrow unless we take care of today. I’m sure it was on all of our minds a little bit, the test that we have tomorrow.”
While the end result was the same, the Lancers were more competitive with the Lions at Wednesday’s sectional meeting. When last the NSC rivals met at LaVille back on April 24, the Lancers took just 12 games from the visitors. They fell once more in straight sets at DeSantis Courts, but this time around LaVille won 21 games against the Lions.
Kaitlyn Haisley nearly extended Northern State No. 2 singles champ Alexa Harshbarger to a third set, leading 5-4 in the second set after going down a set 6-2 in their opener, but Harshbarger regrouped and won three straight to put the match away 7-5, putting the exclamation point on the Bremen win.
“That second set was just back and forth,” said Rohde. “We just needed to make sure we fought for every game there, and she played well the last couple games — had some good first serves and second serves and some good returns to get that win.”
“Kaitlyn, she had everything going her way, and she fought and fought and just came up a little short,” said LaVille coach Michael Sumpter. “She had to go through a major transformation to go from JV to a 2 singles spot, and she had to put forth a great effort, and she did in the offseason. She fought for everything, and for someone who’s never played varsity before I’d have to say she turned out pretty dog-gone good.”
Also Wednesday, Morgan Smith beat Bailey Frick in a 6-2, 6-1 No. 1 singles quarterfinal, Andrea Strehler topped Tabitha Lymburner in straight 6-0 sets at 3 singles, Cassie Sears and Haley Foster combined for a 6-3, 6-2 win over Kayla Hoober and Alexis Kertai at 1 doubles, and Heidi Prawat and Haley Moren put away Katie Simmons and Kelsi Watts in two 6-3 sets for the evening’s penultimate win.
“The last time we played them it was really the first real opponent that we felt like was going to crush us in our conference, and we came out and we were just not really ready but we competed well. This time we came out and I felt like on a whole new level we believed we actually could beat them,” said Sumpter. “That’s something that we haven’t had in a long time, and that’s what the difference was — that belief, that faith.”
Next up for the Lions is Plymouth, which boasts an unbroken streak of 12 straight sectional titles and is fifth all-time in the state in sectional championships with 28 total behind Munster’s 37, Marion’s 31 and 29 and 28, respectively, by Carmel and Marion. The Lions and the Pilgrims were slated for a match way back on April 11, but that rain-out was never rescheduled, and Bremen is looking to sneak up on the defending champs tonight.
“We’re hoping to just battle. If we win, we win; if we lose, we lose, but we just want to make sure we compete, play hard, have good attitudes,” said Rohde. “I know that they have a strong team as they always do, and they’re well-coached as well. We just want to give our best effort, and we’ll see what the result is.”
LaVille closes out a 2-12 season, meanwhile, in which the wins were hard to come by but the Lancers made some big steps forward. With a new culture of competition seemingly instilled in team members and no one lost to graduation, the team could be on the verge of a breakout season next year.
“We have a lot of beautiful things coming back, and it’s going to be awesome to see how we’re going to be empowered,” said Sumpter. “After this sectional playing Bremen, you know what, next year we’re going to come out and take names. It’s going to be nice. It’ll be nice finally putting our stamp, so to speak, on a conference title or something.”
• BREMEN GIRLS
BREMEN 5, LaVILLE 0
SINGLES: 1. Morgan Smith beat Bailey Frick 6-2, 6-1; 2. Alexa Harshbarger beat Kaitlyn Haisley 6-2, 7-5; 3. Andrea Strehler beat Tabitha Lymburner 6-0, 6-0.
DOUBLES: 1. Cassie Sears-Haley Foster beat Kayla Hoober-Alexis Kertai 6-3, 6-2; 2. Heidi Prawat-Haley Moren beat Katie Simmons-Kelsi Watts 6-3, 6-3.