PLYMOUTH — The rivalry between Plymouth and Warsaw is always intense, but given the conference ramifications of Wednesday’s girls tennis meet between the two teams, the competition was fierce.
The Lady Pilgrims hit the courts focused and kept a little cooler under pressure to edge out the visiting Tigers 3-2 and take the driver’s seat in the Northern Lakes Conference round robin standings at Plymouth.
“This is a great win for us, it really is,” said Plymouth girls tennis head coach Brad Haeck. “I didn’t quite know what to expect; it’s been like a week since we’ve been able to play, varsity-wise, but I felt like we were extremely focused coming out. Overall, I thought we played probably our best match of the season.
“Every year it seems like it’s 3-2 with Warsaw, and we’ve been able to find a way to get it done the last few years, and it was kind of the same this year.”
“Plymouth’s got a good team; Brad’s done a good job with them,” said Warsaw head coach Rick Orban. “And Plymouth is always mentally tough, even if you get Plymouth down. That’s something we talked about: They never give up.”
Plymouth won matches at both doubles courts and at No. 3 singles for the team victory Wednesday.
The No. 2 doubles tandem of Marissa German and Chelsea Thoden was the first to finish up as they overmatched Warsaw’s inexperienced lineup of Andi Frazetta and Nichole Herendeen for two 6-2 wins and Plymouth’s first match point of the meet.
“We knew that we had to come in and help the team,” said Thoden. “Warsaw had won a bunch of their matches 3-2 but usually lost at their doubles, so we knew we needed to go in and attack their weakest teams.”
“Our 2 doubles, I’ve been trying to work on them the entire season,” said Orban. “We just don’t have any experience there. I’ve changed lineups several times. We tried this lineup, and I’ll probably change the lineup again tomorrow night.”
No. 1 doubles was next to get the win as Shannon Elliott and Lindsay Renz trumped Carlye Bishopp and Lindsay Sciarra 6-3, 6-2 in perhaps the most intense match of the night. Ultimately, the Pilgrims kept their composure a little better to outlast the Tigers.
“It’s very hard (to stay composed),” said Elliott. “It’s Warsaw, Coach told us tonight that we were playing for conference — which is true, it’s between us, Northridge and Warsaw — and we went in and played our best. We were down and the turning point was 3-2 in both sets.”
“You just have to be mentally tough through the big points,” said Renz. “When it got to those big points, we just knew that we wanted them and so we did whatever we could to just put it back and play and play out the point and just finish.”
Following Renz and Elliott shortly thereafter was Plymouth No. 3 singles player Meagan Barron as she rallied back from a 4-3 deficit in the first set to beat Elise Smith 6-4. Barron fell behind 1-0 in the second set as she caught her breath from her strong finish in the opening set, but she fired back with six straight wins to put Smith away 6-1 and clinch the NLC win.
“Meagan played an awesome 5-4 game in the first set, an awesome, real long deuce game and battled and got that win,” said Haeck. “It’s just those critical moments in a match that make a huge difference, just baring down and getting those big points, not getting emotionally too high or too low. That’s definitely the best Meagan’s played; she’s getting better.”
“Coach kind of just took me aside and told me some things I needed to do and just to focus,” Barron said. “That was a big win in the first set, and then I just got really tired. I was exhausted so she got up on me early, and he came and told me to focus and play hard and aggressive, and that’s what I did.
“Coach told me if I got up on her early she’d lose confidence, and I feel like she did.”
Wednesday’s victory drops Warsaw to 2-1 in the conference while lifting Plymouth to a 2-0 mark after a 4-1 NLC-opening win at NorthWood last Thursday.
It also leaves the Pilgrims the presumed favorites for the conference round robin as the only remaining unbeaten team in the NLC, although they still have a tough test ahead of them in Northridge — which lost to Warsaw earlier this season — next Thursday.
“Even 1 and 2 singles I felt like were more competitive than the scores indicated,” said Haeck. “I was just really happy with just about everything. They got Northridge 3-2; there are a lot of good teams in our conference but right now I feel like they’re the team to beat.”
“Plymouth will be a formidable opponent,” said Orban. “We figured it would be between us and Plymouth, to be honest with you.
“I’d say right now Plymouth’s the odds-on favorite to go undefeated in the conference.”
• PLYMOUTH 3, WARSAW 2
Singles: 1. Alli Tucker (W) beat Erin Kinney 6-3, 6-3 2. Sarah Hartle (W) beat Kelly Hoeffler 6-2, 6-1 3. Meagan Barron (P) beat Elise Smith 6-4, 6-1
Doubles: 1. Shannon Elliott-Lindsay Renz (P) beat Carlye Bishopp-Lindsay Sciarra 6-3, 6-2 2. Marissa German-Chelsea Thoden (P) beat Andi Frazetta-Nichole Herendeen 6-2, 6-2.
Records: Plymouth 5-1 (2-0 NLC), Warsaw 4-2 (2-1 NLC).
JV score: Warsaw 7, Plymouth 6.