Lady Pilgrims stun Warsaw take regional title

Plymouth's seniors celebrate a regional win
Ron Haramia
Sports Writer

On the hottest day of the year, the play of Plymouth’s girls tennis team sizzled as well.

And now, the squad that head coach Brad Haeck says has improved more than any team he’s had, can call themselves regional champs after stunning Warsaw, 4-1, at the Culver Academy Regional final Wednesday.
“I was all by myself because I was emotionally all over the place,” Haeck said of his reaction when Miranda German won at No. 3 singles to give the Lady Pilgrims the match-clinching third point. “We’ve been so close the last two years. You invest so much into it, no matter the final outcome. We’ve got a group of kids that were very determined. It was fun to watch.”

Fun, and at times, a little shocking. Thirty minutes in, Plymouth was winning on all five courts.

Both doubles team were controlling their matches as expected, but Cortni Cook, who lost two fairly one-sided matches to Liza Lewis during the season, took the first set 6-2. Kyla Heckaman, who also had two losses to her opponent at No. 2 singles was winning 4-3, and German had turned around an early 0-3 deficit into a 4-3 lead.

“I didn’t realize that,” admitted Haeck, whose team was attempting to turn around a 3-2 regular-season loss to the Lady Tigers. “As a coach you are always a little nervous. You don’t know how your team is going to respond.”

On paper, the German-Alyssa Zellers match at No. 3 was going to be crucial. It was the deciding point earlier in the season and with the Lady Tigers’ strength at the top of the singles spots and Plymouth’s at both doubles, most eyes were on the outside court.

“I thought that would be the swing match and may determine the outcome,” Haeck added.

The slow start by German ended up being a mirage. After the early struggles, the freshman won 12 of the next 14 games for a convincing 6-4, 6-1 victory. She mixed in a strong first serve with enough potent ground strokes and the occasional volley to offset Zellers’ tactic of getting everything back and running German ragged.

“I felt a lot of pressure going in, but once I won the first set, the pressure was off. I didn’t feel it anymore,” said German, who split with Zellers in two previous meetings. “I don’t know what happened at the start, but then I started to get the momentum. I wanted to get her moving and make an error because she was tiring me out. It was much hotter today, but I just had to fight it. I did not even think about a third set.”

“I tried to settle her down (after falling behind 0-3), but she is so competitive,” Haeck said. “She settled in, got more balls in play, and used her athleticism. That’s a tough spot for a freshman and Zellers is such a good player. It was a huge deal to win that first set. Miranda has a determined mentality.”

The Cook-Lewis match also ended in dramatic fashion. Lewis rebounded to take the second set, 6-3, and was leading 3-2 in the third when Cook found the magic she had earlier. She won the next two games to lead 4-3, then they split a pair before Cook finished it for a 6-4 third-set win. The loss also takes Lewis out of the individual singles tourney.

“Cortni’s a competitor,” said Haeck of the senior. “She hits it in some unorthodox ways, not necessarily the way you would teach it, but she makes it work. She frustrates people and she did that to Liza. Liza made some uncharacteristic errors, but to Cortni’s credit, she hustled down some balls and made her hit a couple extra shots. We just talked about having a determined mindset on the court.”

Plymouth will face 10th-ranked South Bend Saint Joseph (18-3) Saturday at Semi-state, which will also be played at the Gable Tennis Complex courts across the street from to the Culver Academy campus. The match begins at noon.
At Culver (Regional final)
SINGLES: 1. Cortni Cook (P) def. Liza Lewis 6-2, 3-6, 6-4; 2. Ella Knight (W) def. Kyla Heckaman 7-5, 6-2; 3. Miranda German (P) def. Alyssa Zellers 6-4, 6-1.
DOUBLES: 1. McKenzie Scheetz/Leah Miller (P) def. Rachel Boyle/Taylor Shoaf 6-1, 6-1; 2. Mary Beatty/Audie Plothow (P) def. Rachel Yeager/Reagan Merchant 6-3, 6-1.
Records: Plymouth 18-5, Warsaw 15-4