Plymouth, Triton advance to sectional championship

BREMEN — A loss isn’t necessarily always a bad thing. Take Marissa Ross’ and Holly Stogsdill’s loss to Glenn’s Kyler Columbia and Allison Pudlo at last Saturday’s Northern State Conference meet.
The Triton duo seemed to have learned a few lessons in that defeat to their Glenn 1 doubles counterparts, and on Thursday they found the opportunity to apply them.
Ross and Stogsdill battled from behind to pull off a dramatic 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4 win over Columbia and Pudlo, avenging two earlier losses this season and finishing off a 4-1 Lady Trojans’ win over the Falcons at the Bremen Girls Tennis Sectional semifinals at DeSantis Courts Thursday. Triton advances to face 12-time defending champion Plymouth, another 4-1 winner over the host Lady Lions Thursday, in tonight’s championship at 4:30 p.m.
“I felt like the turning point happened on Saturday, really, when they were down 0-5 in the first set,” said Triton head coach Allen Peckham of his doubles players. “They started to play a little more aggressive and won two games in a row and then barely lost in the next set, 6-4. At least they gained some momentum and the confidence that when they played them again, they could play with them.”
Long before the conclusion of Thursday’s final match, Triton had already sewn up the team win with match points at 1 and 2 singles — where Kaelyn Mason defeated Yuma Yabuta 6-3, 6-0 and Carrie Slabaugh beat Brittnie Spornhauer in straight 6-0 sets, respectively — as well as at 2 doubles, where Cassaundra Irons and Shayla May were 6-2, 6-1 winners over Glenn’s Leah Kaser and Rachel Lawson. But there was more than pride on the line in the 1 doubles match, as the winners would have remained alive in the doubles state tourney even after their team was eliminated.
“The girls gave a tremendous effort but came up short,” said Glenn head coach and Allison’s mother Tammy Pudlo. “I’m very proud of how they played.”
Glenn’s lone match point came at 3 singles, as Julia Jacobson put away Michal Scherer-Berry 6-3, 6-0 to prevent the sweep, but it wasn’t enough to keep the Trojans from advancing to the championship opposite the Pilgrims.
“Plymouth, they have a very quality team. The one thing I know is that our girls, they’re going to try their best and really give them everything we can give and make them earn their match,” said Peckham. “We’re going to try our best to not let them have anything. I know that they’re really solid and it’s going to be hard at some positions, but I feel like we can really give them a run for their money at certain spots.”
With Thursday’s result, the Falcons bow out after an up-and-down year in which they finished tied for last place with LaVille in the final NSC standings. But the team loses just two players in Pudlo and Jacobson, and their coach is hopeful for the squad next season.
“We had some setbacks, but we have a very young team,” Pudlo said. “There is a lot of promise in our freshmen and our sophomores. It’ll be good.”
Meanwhile in the other semifinal match-up Thursday, Plymouth cruised to the championship with a 4-1 victory over its hosts in a rematch of last year’s championship.
The Pilgrims won on all courts but 1 singles as Mikayla German beat Alexa Harshbarger 6-3, 6-2, and Carly Berger beat Andrea Strehler 7-5, 6-4 at 2 and 3 singles, while Andria Shook and Marissa German combined for a 6-0, 6-4 win over Bremen No. 1s Cassie Sears and Haley Foster, and Emily Blake and Ellen Smith topped Heidi Prawat and Haley Moren 6-0, 6-2 on the doubles courts.
“We have a tremendous amount of respect for Bremen’s program. (Bremen coaches) Mark (Wagner) and Andrew (Rohde), they do things the right way, and especially coming over here on their home court, you know they’re going to give you a battle,” said Plymouth coach Brad Haeck. “They battled us really close last year, and we knew that they were going to give us their best effort. They’ve had a tremendous season, and we came out and we really played well today. This is a good team win for us.”
“I don’t know if we played our best tennis, but we did play very, very well,” said Bremen head coach Rohde. “The one thing we always talk about is we always need to battle and just give our maximum effort, and we did that tonight all throughout every single match. Andrea at 3 singles had a set point in the first set; she gets that point and maybe it changes some things. But I’m so proud of them, the way they played. We played smart, and we played mentally strong.”
While the Pilgrims move on to tonight’s team title match, Bremen No. 1 Morgan Smith remained unbeaten on the season and alive in the singles state tournament with her 6-2, 6-3 win over Allie Berger. Smith advanced alone to the LaPorte Regional as a sophomore last year, ultimately falling to Angola’s Marina Fernandez 6-1, 6-4.
“You just never know how it’s going to happen and who’s going to pop up, and now it’s going to get to some people that we’re not as familiar with,” said Rohde. “She’ll just have to keep playing strong and keep practicing and keep getting better.”
Although the Lions fell short of their ultimate goal of unseating their area rivals Thursday, the team took away plenty of positives from a 12-2 season in which the Lions were crowned undisputed NSC champions earlier this week with two individual conference champions in Smith and Harshbarger. Foster and Prawat will graduate, but the rest of the team should be back and reloaded for next year.
“One of the things that we talk about is that we’re always reloading and not rebuilding, but we are going to miss Haley Foster and Heidi Prawat a lot,” Rohde said. “They’re great senior leaders; they showed toughness — they’re both one-year varsity players and that just shows that you can work for four years and make the top seven, so I appreciate the work that they put in. We really did have such a great year win/ loss-wise, but we did so much more than that. We had so much fun together and we learned a lot, so it was really a great season.”
“I appreciate (assistant coach) Mark so much, and I know the girls do too,” Rohde added. “He puts a lot of time and effort into the tennis season. It wouldn’t be as fun without him, and we wouldn’t be as successful without him.”
At Bremen
SINGLES: 1. Morgan Smith (B) beat Allie Berger 6-2, 6-3; 2. Mikayla German (P) beat Alexa Harshbarger 6-3, 6-2; 3. Carly Berger (P) beat Andrea Strehler 7-5, 6-4.
1. Andria Shook-Marissa German (P) beat Cassie Sears-Haley Foster 6-0, 6-4; 2. Emily Blake-Ellen Smith ℗ beat Heidi Prawat-Haley Moren 6-0, 6-2.
SINGLES: 1. Kaelyn Mason (T) beat Yuma Yabuta 6-3, 6-0; 2. Carrie Slabaugh (T) beat Brittnie Spornhauer 6-0, 6-0; 3. Julia Jacobson (G) beat Michal Scherer-Berry 6-3, 6-0.
DOUBLES: 1. Marissa Ross-Holly Stogsdill (T) beat Kyler Columbia-Allison Pudlo (G) 4-6, 7-6(2), 6-4; 2. Cassaundra Irons-Shayla May (T) beat Leah Kaser-Rachel Lawson 6-2, 6-1.