VINCENT, PANTHERS MAKE NOISE IN NLC FINALS
StaceyPageOnline / Sports on Saturday, September 22, 2018
SYRACUSE – With just a few days until the state tournament begins, NorthWood was in tournament form to conclude the three-day Northern Lakes Conference Boys Tennis Championships.
Wood won two of four courts, had all three of its singles courts in championships, and brought home one title and a trio of accolades in finishing third overall in the NLC tourney.
Concord went wire-to-wire to repeat as conference champs. Running 7-0 in the round robin, the Minutemen had champions in Alex Serwatka at one singles as well as both doubles teams to pile up to 49 points to best NorthWood’s 42 and Goshen’s 36 to run with the outright team title.
Ben Vincent carried the banner for the Panthers on Saturday. Facing off against Northridge’s Tanner Tavenier in the finals, the top-seeded Raider already had a win against Vincent from the team duals earlier in the season. Vincent, the No. 2 seed, used some scouting to his advantage to rifle out to a 6-1 win in the first set. Noting Tavenier started slow in their first matchup, Vincent kept Tavenier moving and let him make the unforced errors.
Jumping out to a 4-1 lead in the second set, Vincent was making it look easy. But Tavenier’s trend of heating up late finally appeared, taking the next two games to rally to 4-3 down, then split with Vincent to make it 5-4 with serve in hand. Tavenier hit some crafty shots to tie the game at 30-30, then went deuce. The two would each claim ad-in, with Vincent outlasting a tense final point for a 6-4 championship win.
“It was really nerve racking for a while there in the second set,” Vincent said. “I felt like I had a lot of momentum going in, then all of a sudden he hit a couple shots that got him motivated and his fans were in it. I just had to stay within myself and not get into the mind games.
“I felt like I had a good strategy and tried to stay in the moment. All of this hard work is paying off right now and I hope I can turn this into something bigger next week in the sectional.”
NorthWood’s other two singles courts were in championship showdowns, but came up short.
Wes Troyer took on undefeated Serwatka in the No. 1 final. Troyer kept pace with the Minuteman ace in the first set, but Serwatka was too much in a 6-3 win. Serwatka’s backhand crushes on Troyer’s volleys got stronger in the second set, and a 6-1 finish pushed the tourney’s No. 1 player to the championship.
Landon Holland also was alive for a title at No. 3 against Goshen’s Carlos Lichty. The top-seeded RedHawk started hot, beating Holland 6-1 in the first set. In the second, Holland found more room on Lichty’s game and hit some shots deep to beat Lichty. Lichty, however, also made some clever return shots and finished off the No. 3 seed 6-4 for the three singles title.
“We are starting to peak again, and for whatever reason, we are doing it at the end of the year when we should be playing our best tennis,” said NorthWood head coach Tif Schwartz. “It just seems like we have been a tournament team. That’s exciting and fun to watch. You know you have to get a first-round win to stay alive for a title, and the boys all thought about that and we had four of them get it. To have three in the finals, and our one doubles playing for third, that is very exciting for us.”
NorthWood had another Saturday win with its No. 1 doubles duo of Jack Wysong and Trajan Schwartz. Taking on Goshen’s Diego Torres and Ben Bontrager-Singer, a solid 6-2 first set win saw the match get much tighter in the second set. Tied at 5-5, NorthWood held serve and broke Goshen to take the clincher, 7-5, giving the Panthers third in the bracket.
The No. 2 doubles for NorthWood finished sixth, with Grant Topping and Dawson Bley losing to Goshen’s Axel Brown and Drake Crowder 6-2, 6-1 in the fifth-place match.
“This was a good tournament for us overall,” Schwartz said. “I felt like our guys did a really good job here. It’s a great tournament, our conference is very strong, and there were a lot of awesome matches all around.”
Goshen’s tourney points, along with its 6-1 season record, kept the RedHawks in second in the final standings, with NorthWood third after its 4-3 round robin and second-place tourney finish. Plymouth, Northridge, Warsaw, Wawasee and Elkhart Memorial wrapped up the final standings.
Nate Slabach and Travis Harmon maintained their No. 1 status in doubles as the one doubles champs for the Minutemen, beating Plymouth’s Clay Hilliard and Adam Hunter 6-3, 6-4. At No. 2 doubles, Grant Lucchese and Drew McDougle would finish off Plymouth’s Drew Harrell and Andy Rostron 4-6, 6-4, 6-1.
All singles and doubles champions were named All-Northern Lakes Conference. Earning At-Large All-NLC were NorthWood’s Troyer, Gabe Rodino of Northridge and Plymouth’s Hilliard and Hunter. Earning Honorable Mention All-NLC were NorthWood’s Schwartz and Wysong, Northridge’s Tavenier, Plymouth’s Mitch Rose, Goshen’s Ryan Harmelink and Warsaw doubles team of Spencer Britton and Nolan Knight. Concord head coach Todd Denton was named the Coach of the Year by his peers.