HIGHLAND | In 2009, Sam Sakevicius and Christiann Tavitas were freshmen alternates on the Munster team that made semistate. They watched from the sidelines while the Mustangs defeated Valparaiso and South Bend St. Joseph before bowing to Carmel in the state semifinals.
During the next two years, the Mustangs ran into a buzzsaw at Highland, and never got back to LaPorte. That made Wednesday’s regional victory all that much sweeter.
“This was just a little more fun than the last two years,” Sakevicius said with a wry smile. “This time around I got a say in what went down for our team, and that meant a lot to me. It means a lot to me to make it back my senior year.”
The Times No. 1 Mustangs made it back to the LaPorte semistate with a convincing 5-0 victory over Whiting in the Highland regional finals. Munster won all five matches in straight sets to put an exclamation point on their return to the Sweet 16.
“This is very sweet,” Tavitas said. “At this level, every match can be your last match, so we all have to play with an intensity that’s hard to explain. It makes winning all the more sweet.”
The win gave Munster (20-1) their 27th regional title, the most in recorded IHSAA history. The record was in the minds of the girls who played Wednesday.
“We knew how many regional titles the school had won,” Sakevicius said. “And we knew it was time for us to win another one.”
The Oilers (14-3) tried their best to foil the party, but found themselves on the short end of the final score. Still, the team from the Little City by the Lake were proud of what they had accomplished this season.
“We were underdogs to everyone all year,” said senior Mariana Cervantes. “We kept showing teams what Whiting tennis was all about. To win sectional and the first regional round we had to beat teams for the second time in the same year. That’s tough, but we did it. We are really proud of what we accomplished.”
Senior Emily Ballay, Cervantes’ No. 2 doubles partner, agreed.
“This year has been an incredible ride for all of us,” Ballay said. “This team has built some great memories. We pulled out a lot of tough matches this year. The sectional wins over E.C. Central and Bishop Noll were huge, and then we came back here at regional and beat Hobart for a second time.”
In singles competition, Abbey Hamstra (Kankakee Valley) won the No. 1 singles sectional title when she defeated Amber Dwyer (Lake Station) 6-0, 6-1.
In doubles play, the team of Vani Madrigal-Aby Madrigal (Highland) won the doubles sectional title when they defeated Chloe White-Jessica Sharkey (Lowell) 6-1, 6-0.
“There is a lot of pressure on us to make it down to Indy,” said Aby Madrigal, who won the doubles state title last year with partner Liz Quinn. “Everyone assumes we will go all the way because I am a defending champion and I am playing with my sister.”
The sisters are taking it match-by-match.
“We have to play one match at a time and just focus on that one,” said Vani Madrigal. “It’s a lot of fun to play with my sister, so we are enjoying it as much as we can."
Hamstra and the Madrigal sisters will play again June 2 at the LaPorte singles and doubles regional.