PORTAGE | Valparaiso boys tennis coach Tim Shideler's post-match comments weren't riddled with excuses.
Sure, the state No. 18 Vikings had to wait an extra hour to begin its Portage Regional semifinal against No. 11 Penn due to a bus scheduling error. He could have fussed about the tournament realignment, which moved the highly competitive Kingsmen and South Bend St. Joseph's to the field.
"I thought our guys played really well," said Shideler, whose team fell 3-2. "That's all I can ask. It's not impossible. We battled hard, but Penn is a really good team."
The Kingsmen (15-4) will play LaPorte (17-4) for the championship at 4 p.m. today. The Slicers eliminated the Indians 4-1.
The Vikings (16-3) had some early chances. Ben Kalisch had a 5-4 first-set lead over exchange student Eric Lehikoinen, who won three straight games, then finished off Kalisch 6-3 in the second set for the clinching point.
The No. 1 doubles team of Quinn Donnell and John Olejniczak held on for a 7-5 first-set decision to defending state semifinalists Sean Anderson and Brad Walter before getting shut out 6-0 in the deciding set.
At No. 2 doubles, Tyler Costas and Peter Williams lost 6-4, 6-4.
"We were so close at No. 2 doubles," Shideler said. "We just couldn't turn it.
At No. 1 doubles, "we just lost confidence," he said.
Slicers freshman Michael Varda clinched the victory over St. Joseph's (18-3) with a 6-3, 6-3 decision at No. 2 singles.
"It's the best feeling ever," Varda said. "I've been through pressure settings before, but this was definitely was nerve-wracking. I wasn't too nervous.
"I'd heard we won at No. 1 doubles, and I saw (No. 1 singles player) Carter Perry celebrate. That definitely pumped me up."
LaPorte coach Bill Reed was just happy to see his team get off to a quick start. Michael Curtis and Bryce Goetz (6-0, 6-3) cruised at No. 1 doubles, and Perry won in straight sets, 6-4, 6-3.
"We started off with the big guns (at No. 1 singles and doubles), and they just lifted up the team," Reed said. "I thought we needed to come out strong today, and we really picked it up as a team."