Pilgrims earn 3 championship berths at NLCs

GOSHEN — Plymouth’s boys tennis team went 4-1 a second straight night at the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament to stay in the hunt for the tourney championship headed into Saturday’s final round of play at Concord.
The Pilgrims advanced to championship matches at three positions as Gabe Vervynckt won at 1 singles, John Hunter won his semifinal at 3 singles, and Kameron Eisehour and Ryan Johnson earned a semifinal win at 2 doubles.
Matt Flynn bounced back from a loss in his opener at 2 singles Wednesday to advance to the fifth-place match this weekend, while Kendall Fosler and Jack Holloway lost their match with Concord at 1 doubles.
With Thursday’s finish, Plymouth remains competitive for the NLC Tournament championship but is likely out of contention for the overall conference title as Warsaw earned championship match berths at four of five positions after tying with the Minutemen for first place in the conference round robin ahead of the Pilgrims.
“We have to finish first, and Warsaw would have to finish third,” said Plymouth boys tennis coach Michael Delp of his team’s chance at an overall NLC title. “I don’t think anybody’s going to pop up in front of all three of us (Plymouth, Warsaw, Concord). At this point, you take care of what you can take care of, beat them where you can. We’re going to play Warsaw head-to-head, but a lot of it kind of depends on… if Concord can slip up and get ahead of them. But if not it’ll be for pride and (individual) NLC championships and just winning the tournament. There’s something to say in that. Putting together our best tournament is always our goal.”
The Pilgrims have a chance to make up some ground against the Tigers in two of their three championships Saturday.
At the 1 singles position, Vervynckt will play Northridge’s Chris Robbins in the top flight championship Saturday after the Pilgrim senior trumped Elkhart Memorial’s Mazin Hakim 6-1, 6-2 Thursday. Vervynckt is the likely favorite with just one loss in conference play this year and an earlier win over Robbins in the conference round robin.
“Gabe beat a very tough player from Memorial and played very well,” said Delp. “He just played solid and got off to a good start. Ever since yesterday, he came out real slow, kind of tight. Senior year, he came out against Warsaw and got down 4-1, then won 11 straight games against the kid after that, so he’s feeling good.”
Hunter will play Warsaw’s Alek Jansen following his 6-1, 6-2 win over Goshen’s Hudson Kay in the 3 singles semifinal Thursday.
“John Hunter played very well against another freshman from Goshen and did like he’s done all year. He’ll have to play the Warsaw kid, who kind of started his run,” said Delp. “He lost the first set against the Warsaw kid the first time, then was down in the second and came back and won. He’s played with a lot of confidence since then.”
Meanwhile at 2 doubles, Eisehour and Johnson will face off against the Tigers tandem Will Petra and Connor Singrey after putting away Goshen’s Derick Hostetler and Zach Granger in two tough sets, 6-3, 7-5 Thursday. The Plymouth duo is 2-0 in the NLC Tournament after Johnson bumped up from JV in the Pilgrims’ home invitational last weekend.
“Ryan’s done a nice job stepping up. He’s a big, strong kid. He’s got a good serve, a good forehand,” Delp said. “He just needs a little experience playing at this level finding out about the quickness of the game. He got a big win on Saturday where he got to play up a little bit, which just added to his confidence. He’s going to be one of the good ones when we’re all said and done. He’s invested in the program and he’s got a good, high ceiling on him.”
Fosler and Holloway saw their championship hopes disappear with their 6-2, 6-1 loss Thursday, but they’ll have a shot at redemption in a match for third place with Goshen’s Sylas Buller and Sam Stegelman Saturday. Flynn bounced back from a tough three-set loss to Northridge’s Josh Garfein in his third match since moving up from 1 doubles at Wednesday’s opener, beating NorthWood’s Quinn Stillson 6-2, 6-1 in a playback to advance to a fifth-place match against Wawasee’s Chase Myers this weekend.
“Matt Flynn lost a tough three-set match last night and came back today and won for us, responded,” said Delp. “He’s just doing a really good job of making that transition from doubles, which is tough, so he’s doing a really nice job.”