Warsaw and Wawasee, two of the top three boys tennis teams in the Northern Lakes Conference this fall, met once again on Thursday for the final time this season in the opening round of the IHSAA boys tennis sectional at Warsaw. After five grueling matches, the Tigers were able to escape with a narrow 3-2 victory.
“I always hope that my boys can be mentally tough and pull through, which is what you need to win a match like this,” Warsaw head coach Stacy Lind said. “Today they showed they have what it takes.”
The first match to conclude was the battle between the No. 1 doubles teams. Warsaw’s Patrick Stump and Caleb Smith were able to roll through the Warriors’ Dane Cripe and Caden Pratt, getting off the court in a hurry with a 6-2, 6-3 victory.
“Our doubles were huge for us today. They knew what they needed to do today and what we needed from them,” Lind said.
The second match to conclude was the duel between No. 1 singles competitors Henry Norton of Warsaw and Joey Harper of Wawasee. Harper, an all-conference selection, looked crisp in this one, constantly staying one step ahead of Norton and holding on for a 6-2, 6-2 victory. As a winning No. 1 on a losing team, Harper will advance in the state tournament as an individual.
Wawasee junior Joey Harper makes a backhand return during his No. 1 singles match while playing in Thursday evening's sectional. Photo by Gary Nieter
Warsaw’s No. 3 singles player, freshman Henry Norton, continued to impress in his inaugural campaign, earning a straight set win over Wawasee’s Brayden Miller. Norton, an all-conference as well, has been remarkable over the past few weeks, compounding his first place finish at the Northern Lake Conference Championships with another win on Thursday.
“It’s a rarity to have a player like Henry,” Lind said. “He’s top notch on the court and off of it. He’s here to do his best every single day and his performances always match that. We’re lucky to have him.”
The most tense battle of the day belonged to No. 2 singles players Kane Dukes and Ted Grandon. The ultra-competitive match had its fair share of excellent play, with Grandon cruising through the first set 6-2 before Dukes turned it on, putting on his own stellar performance to take the final two sets 6-4, 6-0, winning the match between the two and tying the overall match at 2-2.
With one match remaining to determine who would advance to Saturday’s semifinal round, all eyes shifted to the No. 1 doubles battle between Warsaw’s Drew Ryser and Khareus Miller and Wawasee’s Ty Brooks and Evan Byler. The three-set affair had plenty of twists and turns along the way, but eventually, Miller and Ryser were able to hold on for a 6-4, 4-6, 6-4 victory to seal the deal for their team.
Warsaw will compete against Columbia City Saturday morning for the sectional semifinals at 9 a.m. On the other side of the bracket, Tippecanoe Valley and Whitko will face off. The winners of each match will compete for the sectional championship at 1 p.m.
“The boys are going to need to be ready to fight because they are going to want it just as bad as we do,” Lind said.