VALPARAISO | It was Senior Night for Times No. 2 Valparaiso, and the three seniors playing singles made it a night to remember in Duneland Athletic Conference boys tennis.
Ben Kalisch, Marty Pochop, and Eric Cender all won in straight sets to lead the Vikings to a 4-1 win over Portage. The victory gave Valpo its fifth straight DAC tennis title.
“We won the conference all four years,” Cender said about the senior trio. “And we have won sectionals the first three years. We hope to add a fourth straight win to that one as well.”
Cender defeated Zach Smith 6-1, 6-0 for the decisive third point.
“My game plan was to keep him moving back and forth on the court,” Cender said. “I was trying to place the ball at certain angles to make returns more difficult. I was able to get up on the net several times and use my height to my advantage.”
Kalisch, who is 15-3 on the year, gave the Vikings an early lead when he defeated Jeff McElfresh 6-0, 6-0. Pochop made it 2-0 with a 6-0, 6-1 win over John Fannin.
No. 4 Portage (12-2, 5-2) cut the lead to 2-1 with a win at No. 2 doubles, 6-0, 6-1.
“This was a big match for our team today,” said Portage’s Chris Klenk. “We came in knowing we had a shot at sharing conference. We wanted to play well and try to give our team an early boost.”
His partner, CJ Haupt, credited their serves for several quick points.
“We got 70-75 percent of our first serves in,” Haupt said. “That made for a lot of easy play at the end on the return. It helped us get off to a quick lead.”
Haupt and Klenk ran their record to 19-1 on the year at No. 2 doubles.
But then Cender (16-2) stepped up and grabbed the third point for the Vikings (10-2, 6-0) to seal the deal.
“We had hoped to be more competitive at No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles,” Portage coach Gary Hayes said afterwards. “We knew we would be hard pressed to keep up at the top two singles spots. But we kind of ran into a buzz saw today. Valparaiso played really well across the board.”
Valpo coach Tim Shideler was very satisfied with the final Duneland match of this year.
“Portage is a much improved team from last year,” Shideler said. “We knew we would have a tough match on our hands, and we didn’t want to take anything for granted. But the guys came out focused and ready to play.”
The two teams may end up seeing each other again when sectionals begin on Sept. 26.
“We’re hoping for a strong postseason run,” Shideler said. “We’d like another shot at a regional title.
Hayes was also looking forward to the postseason.
“We have a good shot at making some noise in the sectional,” Hayes said. “We know where we have to improve between now and then.”