Pilgrims beat Lions in tennis sectional championship rematch

BREMEN — Even after scoring a victory over the Lady Lions back in April and with a secondary lineup at that, Plymouth’s girls tennis team wasn’t taking anything for granted Friday.
The Pilgrims hit the courts ready to go, beating Bremen in straight sets at four positions and in three sets at No. 1 singles for a 5-0 shutout of the host Lions in the championship match of the Bremen Sectional at DeSantis Courts.
“Every time you face Bremen, you know it’s going to be a battle. You know they’re going to give their best effort and they’re going to be well-coached,” said Plymouth head girls tennis coach Brad Haeck. “It was a battle the first time around, and we had (No. 1 doubles player) Lindsay Renz back; we didn’t have her the first time around, so this time we were a little stronger lineup, and really they played us just about as tough this time around. That’s a credit to Bremen’s program and their coaches and their players.”
The closest match was at No. 1 singles, where Erin Kinney rallied from a first-set loss to beat talented freshman Morgan Smith 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a reprisal for Smith’s victory during the two team’s regular-season meeting in April, the Lions’ only win at the meet. The No. 1s went deuce five times in the final set alone Friday.
“She obviously would have loved to win that match, but Erin came out and just played a real strong game, a real smart game,” said Bremen head coach Andrew Rohde. “It just wasn’t meant to be today.”
“She is a competitor at the very least,” said Haeck of Kinney. “Regardless of what’s going on in the first set, second set, third set, you know she’s going to go out there and battle for us. She doesn’t have the best or most refined strokes, but she’s a competitor, she’s going to do whatever it takes to win, and I think she did some things that kind of threw Morgan off a little bit at different times… but Morgan’s a really good player and for Erin to be able to fight back and win in three sets is a great accomplishment for her.”
It was the Pilgrims’ 11th straight sectional title and 27th in program history, putting Plymouth in third on the all-time IHSAA team sectional championship list behind Munster — which won its state-best 36th sectional crown Thursday — and Marion, which will vie for its 29th in the Sectional 38 championship today. Carmel also owns 27 and will play Hamilton Southeastern for the Sectional 7 title at home today.
Friday’s meet was a rematch of last year’s sectional championship at Bremen with all too familiar results for the Lions after they took a similar 5-0 loss at last year’s tourney. It was the Lions’ seventh straight loss to archival Plymouth stretching back to the year the Pilgrims joined the Bremen field in 2005.
“We’re blessed to have a good enough team that we’ve been able to meet Plymouth, whether it’s the first round or the championship,”Rhode said. “We’re happy that we’re able to field a good enough team, and our girls work hard enough so that we can do that. It’s just part of the game. You know you’re going to have to reach a tough team sometime. Plymouth always comes into this sectional as favorites, but when they go to regional they’ve got to face St. Joe and Penn, so it’s the same situation. You’re going to face someone tough eventually.”
True, the Pilgrims face a tough road at the South Bend St. Joseph’s Regional Tuesday, when they take on the defending state champ and No. 1-rated host Indians, while Culver Girls Academy faces Penn after advancing out of their home tourney with a seventh consecutive sectional title Thursday.
After five matches in five straight days and six in seven days including last Saturday’s Northern Lakes Conference Tournament, the Pilgrims are looking forward to finally getting in a little practice before they face St. Joe.
“They’re ranked first in the state and they’re the defending state champs and they have everybody back,” said Haeck. “We could look at it as the glass half empty and the glass half full. Hopefully we’ll get two good practices in before then, and we’ll go up to Leeper Park and we’ll be ready to play.”
Bremen closes out its season, meanwhile, with a very respectable 13-5 record. The team bids goodbye to five seniors, including four of their top seven in Chelsea Anglin, Isabella Araujo, Kelsey Stichter and Nicole Ingle.
“We’ve had some great seniors up and down the lineup,” said Rohde. “We had five seniors this year, and each brought something very individual and very important to the team, and we will miss them dearly. But we do have some talent coming back, and we hope that we can build on that.”
At DeSantis Courts
SINGLES: 1. Erin Kinney beat Morgan Smith 1-6, 6-4, 6-3; 2. Kelly Hoeffler (P) beat Chelsea Anglin 6-1, 6-4; 3. Meagan Barron beat Isabella Araujo 6-2, 6-1.
DOUBLES: 1. Shannon Elliott-Lindsay Renz beat Kelsey Stichter-Nicole Ingle 6-2, 6-0; 2. Chelsea Thoden-Marissa German beat Jenessa Morris-Hanna Arch 6-2, 6-2.
Records: Plymouth 15-4, Bremen 13-5 (final).