MUNSTER | Munster boys tennis coach Steve Lopez knows his team can play with anybody.
That includes ranked teams, as the Mustangs defeated No. 16 Crown Point 3-2 on Tuesday to continue their postseason run.
Though Wednesday's Munster Regional championship match against Merrillville wasn't as difficult as Tuesday's semifinal, the Mustangs weren't going to overlook anybody. They came away with a 5-0 win over the Pirates to win their ninth straight regional championship, and continued their own state record with their 31st title as a program.
“I still think this was a great regional,” Lopez said. “The way it was represented and how tight all the matches were, I think it speaks volumes for region tennis.”
With five varsity players graduating last season from Munster's team, young players like sophomores Trey DeLuna and Arlo Detmer have turned up their games this season.
“This year, we knew we had to step it up to keep the tradition alive,” DeLuna said. “It feels really good that we accomplished that.”
DeLuna continued the momentum from a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) win in Tuesday's No. 2 singles match against Crown Point's Lance Noerenberg with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Merrillville's Ayron Williams on Wednesday.
“When I played (Noerenberg) in past tournaments and the offseason, he won decisively,” DeLuna said. “I feel like this season, with coach Lopez and my team, I really improved and I feel like I'm at that level where I can compete with the top guys at No. 2 singles. They really encourage me and help me improve to get at a high level at No. 2 singles.”
Merrillville (5-14) gave Munster a couple scrappy matches. Nygel Jackson fought hard with Colin Richter at No. 1 singles, but Jackson lost 6-2, 6-1.
“We played better at every position than we have all season,” Merrillville coach James Simon said. “Our relationship (with Munster) is so good. One day, we'll be able to give them a run for their money. Until then, we'll just enjoy coming out here.”
Munster (17-4) will face No. 1 Carmel (20-1) at Saturday's Culver Academies 1 Semistate. The Mustangs have ran into the Greyhounds brick wall in the last two semistate rounds and have lost with matching 5-0 scores.
“We've lost to them, and I think we're just going to go in and do our best,” DeLuna said. “We know we can play well, and hopefully our games rise with better competition.”