Pilgrims place 2nd at NLC Tournament, finish 2nd in conference

ELKHART — Plymouth’s boys tennis team claimed a championship at 1 singles and two runner-up finishes to finish second, while Warsaw earned four individual championships en route to the team title at the Northern Lakes Conference Tournament over the weekend.
The Tigers won the overall NLC title with 16 points after tying with Concord for first place in the conference round robin standings, while Plymouth finished second overall with 44 points after finishing second in the tourney and third in the round robin.
Concord finished third with 12.5 points, Northridge was fourth with 9.5 points, Elkhart Memorial finished fifth with nine points, Goshen was sixth with six points, NorthWood was seventh with four points, and Wawasee rounded out the conference standings with two points.
It wasn’t quite the finish Plymouth was hoping for, but with only two players returning varsity experience to the lineup at the start of the year, the runner-up result was nothing to shake a stick either.
“We always set our goals high. I’m not going to make any excuses for what our expectations are, but Warsaw brought back I want to say six of their top seven and then a strong JV lineup on top of that. We had five holes to fill out of our seven,” said Plymouth boys tennis coach Michael Delp. “As far as experience and expectations, it was a successful year in the conference. I don’t believe in overachieving, but I do believe in coming close to your potential, and we definitely came pretty close to what we wanted.”
“Warsaw did win four of the five championships,” he added. “They definitely earned their NLC championship this year with the most people back, and they’ll have a strong team next year as well.”
Plymouth got a little help from Northridge at the tourney as the Raiders finished in a tie with Concord for third place. Because of the way the conference points are distributed, that left the Pilgrims a half point ahead of the Minutemen in the final conference standings after Concord handed them one of two losses in the conference round robin to leave the Minutmen locked in a two-way tie with Warsaw for first place in the head-to-head round.
The Pilgrims’ lone championship came at 1 singles, where senior Gabe Vervynckt reprised his NLC runner-up finish last year by putting away Northridge’s Chris Robbins in two 6-0 sets.
“Coming back from last year and finishing second, being a senior and being through the battles before, he definitely kind of showed that. His experience kind of showed against some of these guys,” said Delp. “He’s relentless. He may not have the most offense, but he definitely has great defense and he’s added enough offense to make him really, really tough to beat. Mentally he’s probably one of the strongest players I’ve ever coached.”
Freshman John Hunter placed second at 3 singles with a 6-2, 6-2 loss to Warsaw’s Alek Jansen, while Kameron Eisehour and Ryan Johnson were runners-up at 2 doubles with a 6-4, 6-2 loss to Warsaw’s Will Petro and Connor Singrey.
“John ran up against a senior that had lost to him the first time, and he had a tough day. The conditions were a little difficult, kind of breezy, and his youth kind of showed a little bit… But John has had a tremendous season, and I told him after the match that one championship loss doesn’t diminish what he’s done this year for our team and for himself,” Delp said.
“Two doubles ran into a real tough team — they didn’t lose all season as far as the conference,” he added. “We played them much tougher than we did the first time, and Ryan wasn’t part of the mix the first time.”
Matt Flynn earned his second straight win in the consolation bracket after dropping his opener at 2 singles to place fifth with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Wawasee’s Chase Myers. Jack Holloway and Kendall Fosler finished third in the 1 doubles tourney with a three-set, 3-6, 6-2, 6-4 victory over Sylas Buller and Sam Stegelmann of Goshen. Fosler and Holloway were voted All-NLC Honorable Mention for their efforts.
“We had a good tournament where a lot of guys played well,” Delp said. “Matt ended up winning his last two matches in pretty convincing fashion at 2 singles and 1 doubles took a tough loss in the semis, but they ended up beating a really strong Goshen team again that I really have a lot of respect for. That was a good win for Jack and Kendall.”
Plymouth now plays Culver Military Academy in a Senior Night match-up at home in Centennial Park Tuesday before entering the state series at the Bremen Sectional Tournament, which begins Wednesday. The tourney drawing takes place tonight.
“CMA is going to be perhaps our toughest opponent of the year, and it is Senior Night, so our guys are going to be looking forward to that,” Delp said. “We’ll get in a good practice, and we’ll see where we stand against CMA. They beat Warsaw earlier in the year, 4-1… so looking at it on paper, they’re definitely the strongest team head-to-head we’ve run up against. We’ll see where we stack up.”
At Elkhart
TOURNEY STANDINGS: 1. Warsaw 52, 2. Plymouth 44, 3. TIE Concord 32, Northridge 32, 5. Elkhart Memorial 30, 6. Goshen 22, 7. NorthWood 7, 8. Wawasee 2.
FINAL NLC STANDINGS: 1. Warsaw 16, 2. Plymouth 13, 3. Concord 12.5, 4. Northridge 9.5, 5. Elkhart Memorial 9, 6. Goshen 6, 7. NorthWood 4, 8. Wawasee 2.
Championship round
SINGLES: 1. Gabe Vervynckt (P) beat Chris Robbins (NR), 6-0, 6-0; 2. Evan Miller (W) beat Spenser Gilbert (EM), 6-2, 6-2; 3. Alek Jansen (W) beat John Hunter (P), 6-2, 6-2.
DOUBLES: 1. A.J. Herendeen-Sam Rice (W) beat Tom Cunningham-Trevor Warren (C), 6-2, 6-1; 2. Will Petro-Connor Singrey (W) beat Kameron Eisehour-Ryan Johnson, 6-4, 6-2.
AT LARGE ALL-NLC: Nick Pollock (C), Mazin Hakim (EM), Chris Robbins (NR)
ALL-NLC HONORABLE MENTION: T. Cunningham and Trevor Warren (C), Spenser Gilbert (EM), Andrew Gingerich and Byron Slabach (NR), Jack Holloway and Kendall Fosler ℗, Sylas Buller and Sam Stegelman (G)
COACH OF THE YEAR: Rick Orban (Warsaw)