Kinney, Pilgrims win on Senior Night

PLYMOUTH — After suffering a Senior Night loss during the basketball season, Erin Kinney was determined not to let it happen again.
Already down a set and trailing Mishawaka Marian’s Sarah Krizman three games to four in the second set, the Plymouth No. 1 battled back, surrendering just one more game over the match’s remainder to beat Krizman 2-6, 6-4, 6-1 and seal a 5-0 whitewash of Marian on the Lady Pilgrims’ Senior Night at home Monday.
“No way. I already had that happen on Senior Night in basketball and I knew how that felt, and I just wanted to be able to enjoy the festivities and everything,” said Kinney. “I was just determined to win.
“I started getting my first serves in, and I was rocking after that. Everyone was done and over at my court cheering so that was a little more incentive to finish strong.”
It was a morale-boosting win for Kinney personally as well as the team.
Making the leap from doubles player to the No. 1 singles spot this year, the three-sport athlete has sometimes struggled to show her development in the win column at a position where she is routinely up against year-round tennis players.
“She just put it in another gear,” said Plymouth head girls tennis coach Brad Haeck. “She’s struggled at times this year, record-wise, but she’s battled every day for us, every single match and I kept telling her sooner or later she’s going to win a big match, and today was the day on Senior Night. I’m so happy for her. I’m just proud of her for everything she’s gone through this year as far as maybe not having quite the success that she and I would hope for just to kind of stay determined and persevere.”
Meanwhile, the 5-0 loss was one of several tough losses for an outmatched and inexperienced young Marian squad, for whom this season has been an eye-opener.
“I have girls who are multi-sport athletes — except my No. 1, she does just play tennis — they don’t just focus on tennis,” said Marian head coach Sarah Stanchin. “I think this year, especially with my singles players on varsity, I think it lit a fire under them a little bit. They’re like ‘Oh my gosh, next year we’re playing all year. This is ridiculous; we can do some things, we have potential.’”
Plymouth honored a deep class of five senior players at Monday’s meet, including Kinney, No. 3 player Meagan Barron, No. 1 doubles partners Shannon Elliott and Lindsay Renz, and No. 2 doubles player Chelsea Thoden, a veteran crew that pushed the team to an undefeated Northern Lakes Conference dual meet record this year as well as strong finishes in the conference and at the state tourney the past several seasons.
“What all five of them have meant to our program through the last four years is a lot,” said Haeck. “We’re definitely going to miss every single one of them next year. They’ve been such a huge part of all the success we’ve had the last four years, even as freshmen. I’m really proud of each and every one of them, and hopefully we have some more success to come.”
The good times keep rolling for Plymouth as they followed up an NLC co-championship performance at the conference tourney at Warsaw Saturday with Monday’s result. The Pilgrims will travel to Munster today before opening Bremen Sectional play against Triton on Wednesday at 4:30 p.m. The winner will move on to play LaVille Thursday, while host Bremen plays John Glenn also at 4:30 p.m., with the championship scheduled for Friday.
Plymouth is considered the clear front-runner as the team vies for its 11th straight sectional title, but the Lions are closing out a strong season on their home turf at DeSantis Courts and could also be a contender.
“We may be the favorites, but I know all those teams have a lot of pride,” Haeck said. “They’re going to give us their best effort when we play them, and we need to be ready for that. And Bremen is definitely good enough to beat us. We want to get better every match, and hopefully we can keep winning.”
at Plymouth
SINGLES: 1. Erin Kinney beat Sarah Krizman 2-6, 6-4, 6-1; 2. Kelly Hoeffler beat Lauren Garatoni 6-0, 6-2; 3. Meagan Barron beat Missy Cunningham 6-1, 6-3.
DOUBLES: 1. Shannon Elliott-Lindsay Renz beat Taylor Milner-Catherine Rice 6-1, 6-2; 2. Marissa German-Chelsea Thoden beat Meredith Patty-Colleen Dalton 6-2, 6-2.
Records: Plymouth 12-3, Mishawaka Marian 6-7.
JV score:  Plymouth 6, Mishawaka Marian 4.