PORTAGE | It took some time, but host Portage advanced to the finals of the boys tennis sectional.
The Indians defeated Wheeler 4-1 to make today's 4 p.m. title match with Valparaiso, but it took almost three hours to complete the task. The Vikings, who've won the title 14 straight seasons, dropped just four games over four matches to defeat Chesterton 4-1.
"This was a huge win for us with all the fairly close matches we had," Portage coach Gary Hayes said.
The Indians (13-5) and Bearcats (7-7) had the longest matches of the afternoon.
At No. 1 singles, Portage senior Jeff Craig defeated Wheeler sophomore Drew Heinold 7-6 (7-5), 6-4, but it took close to three hours to complete.
"Jeff was a little over prepared," Hayes said, "but then he started to relax in the last few games of the match."
"(The win) will give me the toughness to go the distance (in the finals)," added Craig, who will face Valparaiso's Marc Shideler today. "I just need to keep the ball in play."
At No. 2 singles, senior Kyle Tampier rallied to defeat sophomore Matt Houghteling 3-6, 6-1, 6-0.
Wheeler picked up its lone win at No. 1 doubles as juniors Mark Havens and Jordan Long defeated Portage senior Parth Patel and junior Shub Multani 6-4, 6-4.
The Vikings (13-1) handled the Trojans (6-8) with ease. Senior Marc Shideler (No. 1) and sophomore Ben Kalisch (No. 2) each won their matches 6-0, 6-0. Marty Pochop won 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3.
Chesterton's only win came at No. 1 doubles. Seniors Scott Homner and Ryan Tarnowski rallied to defeat Viking junior Quinn Donnell and senior Joshua Bartusch 5-7, 6-4, 6-1.
The Indians are ready to compete against the Vikings in the sectional championship. The last time Valparaiso didn't win the crown was 1995, which is also the last time the Indians won the title.
"I want my youngest guys to play hard (in the championship)," Hayes said. "Preparing for Valpo is not easy, and we know what we're up against."