CULVER | Valparaiso had a 2-1 lead over Culver Academy at the boys tennis semistate matchup Saturday, and a trip to the state finals came down to the tie-breaker sets at No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles.
Pall Baggett and Domi Szabo at No. 2 doubles were leading 5-3 in their third set, and No. 3 singles player Eric Cender had just begun his. Szabo hit the game-winning shot between Culver Academy’s Arturo Lizarraga and Jorge Segura, giving the Vikings their third match to advance to the state finals. The Vikings defeated Culver Academy 4-1, while Munster was swept by Carmel 5-0 in the other semi-state match.
In the other semistate matchup, Munster (18-3) was swept by two-time defending state champions Carmel, 5-0. The Mustangs were only able to win 10 games over the five courts.
Baggett and Szabo won their first set 6-4, lost the second 4-6 and won set three 6-3.
“Domi and I played consistently, that was our goal,” Baggett said. “We knew we could beat them and we knew we could force the errors. We made them fight for every point. We did what coach told us to do and not give up any points so that’s what we did.”
With wins at No. 1 and 2 singles, and a loss at No. 1 doubles, Baggett and Szabo knew that either their or Cender’s match would be the match winner, and it gave the duo extra momentum in the third set.
“(We were a little nervous), but we knew Eric would have our back anyway,” Szabo said. “It actually made us extra confident and extra pumped up, knowing that we could possibly help our team go to state.”
“(Baggett and Szabo) continue to play better every match, and I keep telling them that when we need the big point they’re going to come up and deliver,” Valparaiso coach Tim Shideler said. “Today I thought they played fantastic, continually moving forward and playing aggressive. They came up with some really great shots in that third set, really key moments that kept the momentum.”
Valparaiso (17-2) faces Bloomington South in the state tournament on Friday, where the Vikings have not been since 2010.
In the other matchup, Carmel’s No. 3 singles saw a close first set, with Patrick Farrell winning 7-6 (7-2) in a tie breaker over Colin Richter, but then swept Richter 6-0 in set two.
“The boys did exactly what we set out to do today, which was to fight on every court, make Carmel earn every point and to have presence on the court,” Munster coach Steve Lopez said. “When you’re coming up against the two-time defending state champ, you want to go out there and be sure that you put that hint of fear. And let them know that this is not a cakewalk, and not just handing over to them.”
No. 1 doubles team Charlie Emhardt and Daniel Rodefeld dropped two games in their 6-1, 6-1 win over Michael Kitchell and Kelan Harish, while Arlo Detmer and Aaron Handler were swept by Michael Makio and Jeffery Chen 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 dobules.
“Carmel was Carmel,” Lopez said. “We anticipate aggressiveness and we anticipate accuracy and consistency. That’s what they brought. There wasn’t anything new, they were fired up and enthusiastic, as were we. You want to match that intensity and there wasn’t anything of a surprise, and they were just the better team.”