FORT WAYNE – As the hot and windy Wednesday afternoon dragged on at Homestead, an air of nervousness took hold.
Homestead’s girls tennis team was supposed to cruise past SAC-champion Bishop Luers, but it was taking longer than expected.
The Spartans got their victory, 3-2, and advanced to take on Canterbury today.
If anything, the match was proof that the Spartans’ mettle has improved this season.
We’re getting better and better with each match, and we’re really starting to hunker down and focus, said senior Mary Rajchel, who defeated senior Kelly Dwire 6-3, 6-3 in a prolonged No. 3 singles match.
The Spartans had started off with quick victories in doubles.
At No. 1, senior Allison Overlander and sophomore Jenay Andrews defeated seniors Courtney Witte and Andrea Choka 6-0, 6-3. And at No. 2, juniors Andrea Stephens and Leah Rumancik beat junior Sabrina Streicher and senior Rachel Braun 7-5, 6-0.
That’s when things got tougher.
Homestead (11-3) was without its No. 2 player, senior Hanita Epstein, who was ill and replaced by the No. 8 player, junior Morgan Caudill.
We obviously want (Epstein) to be in good health, but our No. 8 player, Morgan Caudill, is a really, really good player. She’s really consistent, and we can always count on her to do a good job, Rajchel said after Caudill lost 6-3, 6-0 to junior Maddie Brown.
And what began as a one-sided match at No. 1 singles – Homestead senior Kelsey Vessels won the first set 6-1 – turned into a grueling three-setter as junior Natalie Rahrig won the remaining sets 6-2 and 6-3 for Bishop Luers (12-3).
In the first set, I was very inconsistent and didn’t feel very focused, said Rahrig, who improved to 11-4, while Vessels dropped to 8-12. In the second set, I knew I had to be more consistent and stay in the points longer, and I started to believe more in myself.
Today, the Spartans take on Canterbury, which defeated Wayne 5-0 and lost only 10 games. The toughest match came at No. 1 doubles, where seniors Selena Savelieff and Cathy O’Malley defeated seniors Jayla May and Veronica Hayes 7-5, 6-1.
After battling a difficult opponent and tough conditions Thursday, the Spartans are feeling confident.
With all the heat, it was pretty hard, Rajchel said. It definitely changed how you play the match. With the wind, you have to get more topspin and you have to take more time and be more patient. It definitely comes down to who is more patient.