PORTAGE — South Bend St. Joseph ad already eliminated host LaPorte in the regional semifinals on Tuesday evening, but that didn’t keep Brant Maudlin and Garrett Menke from competing.
The LaPorte juniors knew their No. 2 doubles season was coming to an end the moment they walked off the court, but they also knew the long offseason would feel just a little bit shorter with a victory.
Menke served the final game and the Slicers overcame two aggressive errors from Maudlin to knock off Kevin Zmyslo and Brenden Anderson 6-4, 6-3 in LaPorte’s lone victory in a 4-1 loss to the Indians at Portage.
“This was a very significant point for LaPorte boys tennis,” LaPorte coach Don Varda said. “We haven’t taken a point from South Bend St. Joe’s in 20 years. This was very meaningful for our program.”
Maudlin and Menke embraced after the match and then had a lengthy conversation with Varda that featured a lot of smiles.
“This was big for us as it helps us rebuild this program,” Maudlin said. “We played them earlier this year and they killed us, just killed us. We were expecting to play better and it was nice to come away with a point.”
Menke served the final game of the match and the junior got LaPorte ahead 15-love before Maudlin made two aggressive unforced errors as he was trying to catch the Indians offguard with thunderous winners that failed to get home.
“We teach them to be aggressive,” Varda said. “I’m proud of (Menke and Maudlin), I’m proud of my entire team today. We came into the sectional at 3-19 and we won because we never quit.”
Menke recovered to serve the final three points of the match, sending LaPorte to a doubles victory that was bittersweet in the face of the overall loss.
“I just had to get in the mindset that we were going to win this match,” Menke said. “We showed that we were getting better and it obviously showed. We need to take losing in the regional semifinals this year to coming back and winning the regional next year.”
South Bend St. Joseph will face Penn for the regional title today, as the Kingsmen knocked off Chesterton 4-1 in the other semifinal.
Penn captured the match early, but No. 1 singles players Alexander Antonelli (Penn) and Mathew Jewison (Chesterton) battled deep into the night. The pair volleyed for minutes at a time in match that lasted just over two hours and ended with Antonelli pulling out a 6-3, 6-1 victory. Chesterton’s No. 1 doubles team of Blake Ellenwood and Chad Whelan recorded the Trojans’ lone point with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Aiden O’Day and Eric Spaargaren.
Ellenwood and Whelen will move on to the individual tournament and will await the results of today’s No. 1 doubles match to see a potential opponent.
“It’s unbelievable.” Chesterton coach Tom Bour said. “We were never even thinking of putting this team together. Midway through the year we tried it out because of how good some of our other guys were playing and how well they played together. They were great.”
Michigan City’s Devon Stromer advanced to Saturday’s individual regional competition with a 6-4, 6-2 victory over New Prairie’s Evan Knowlton.
“This means a lot to me because I’m not sure the last time someone from Michigan City has advanced this far,” Stromer said.