Tippecanoe Valley senior Ethan Yates runs for a backhand return during his No. 3 singles match. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
Tippecanoe Valley senior Ethan Yates runs for a backhand return during his No. 3 singles match. Photo by Gary Nieter, Times-Union
“Improvement” was the key word Wednesday.

Whitko boys tennis coach Derek Hinen commended the Wildcats’ improvement in a 4-1 victory over Tippecanoe Valley in the opening round of the Warsaw Sectional.

It helped Whitko that the Vikings don’t have doubles teams, so those matches were automatic forfeits.

“It’s not any different experience for them,” Valley coach Nick Kindig said of his players. “I think being a sectional, maybe they had a little bit more nerves coming in.”

Still, Whitko didn’t take anything for granted.

“They have three good singles players,” Hinen said. “We struggled in some matches this year, so we knew we were gonna have to play well to get a couple (wins).”

Valley’s lone win came at No. 1 singles, with Payton Mills handily defeating Devon Akers 6-2, 6-0.

Mills will compete in the individual sectional, which will run concurrently with the team regional starting Tuesday at Culver Academies.

“It’s kind of a different experience and it’s a good learning experience for him,” Kindig said. “It’s really awesome for him to be able to go as a sophomore.”

Whitko’s Aiden Hoffman won 6-0, 6-2 over Connor Frentzel at No. 2 singles.

Hinen said Hoffman began the year at No. 3 singles, and lost to Valley’s Ethan Yates in a regular season match.

However, he moved up to No. 2 singles and upped his play.

“(Hoffman has) been improving throughout the year, so he got better and was able to win tonight,” Hinen said. “So that was a great improvement for him.”

Sliding into the No. 3 singles spot was Bryce Tucker, who used to play doubles for Whitko.

Tucker pulled out a 6-0, 6-3 win over Yates.

Despite the loss, Kindig was impressed with his players.

“(Yates) hadn’t touched a racket until our first practice this year,” he said. “He improved a lot. Connor, he plays his butt off everyday. He works really hard at practice.”

Whitko will play Columbia City today at 4:30 p.m. at Warsaw.

At the same time, Warsaw and Wawasee will play in another semifinal.

The winners will play Saturday at 9 a.m. in the sectional championship.

Hinen said he expects a challenge from the Eagles.

“They’re all really consistent throughout their whole lineup,” he said. “So we’re just gonna have to play really consistently and play our best to have a chance.”


Singles: No. 1 – Payton Mills (V) def. Devon Akers (W) 6-2, 6-0; No. 2 – Aiden Hoffman (W) def. Connor Frentzel (V) 6-0, 6-2; No. 3 – Bryce Tucker (W) def. Ethan Yates (V) 6-0, 6-3.

Doubles: No. 1 – Whitko def. Tippecanoe Valley by forfeit; No. 2 – Whitko def. Tippecanoe Valley by forfeit.