For the third
consecutive year, the Chesterton boys tennis team picked up a 3-2 victory
over Valparaiso to win the IHSAA Portage Sectional title.
“I’m so happy for
our seniors who get to continue their season and I couldn’t be more proud of
how we’ve come together as a team,” Chesterton coach Tom Bour said.
“Everyone, from our less experienced players to our varsity guys, all have a
tremendous attitude and as a coach that alone is something to be proud of.”
With a Sectional
title in the balance, everyone’s concentration was on the No. 1 singles
court. In a rousing three-set match, Trojan Johny Mario battled back from a
set down to seal a 3-2 win for Chesterton.
"I still haven't
come down yet," Mario said. "I'm just happy I could win it for the team.
That was such a big deal for me. It's my senior year, and I'm glad I can
help (lead) the team to victory today."
Mario fell behind
losing 6-1 to Valpo’s Max Behrend in the first set, but fought back to win
the next two sets 6-1, 6-4. The win also provided a birthday present for
Johny's dad, who had said he just wanted a victory from his son for his
"I started to
realize this could be my last match in high school," Mario said. "I wanted
to do everything I could to go out the right way. Regardless, win or lose, I
wanted to remember I played well. The switch flipped on. I was definitely
playing with an edge.
“Don’t get me
wrong, Max is a great guy, but I remembered when I played him in the regular
season, he won and let out a loud scream. That played a part in me playing
with an edge today. I wasn’t going to lose this match.”
Bour wouldn't have
wanted the Sectional on the line with anyone other than Mario.
“You can’t draw it
up much better,” Bour said. “To have your senior captain out there in a
third set in the Sectional Finals with your team’s fate in his hands, that’s
so much pressure. That match just shows you the mental fortitude of Johny
Mario and how far he's come. Two years ago, he might lose that match. He's
been amazing with his mental toughness and he never thought he was out of
“He kept fighting
and kept chipping away, then he got momentum and then we saw him roll. His
confidence went up and all the pressure went to the other side.”
two wins also came in singles. At No. 2, Matt Jewison won 6-0, 6-4 over Matt
Wanek and at No. 3 Blake Ellenwood beat Spencer Ross 6-0, 6-0.
“Johny doesn’t get
that opportunity if it wasn’t for Matt and Blake,” Bour said. “They cruised
through their matches in straight sets. Matt and Blake have been the table
setters for us all season. They go out, get up early and then close the door
“Matt gave up four
games in the second set, but he showed his maturity and experience against
that guy and prevailed there in the end. He didn’t panic.”
The Trojans (12-3)
now have four overall Sectional titles.
"I feel so proud
for these guys," Bour said. "They fought their tail off and we turned it
around after playing poorly early on. It's unbelievable and all the credit
goes to the kids. They work so hard and work hard in the off-season.
(Assistant coach) Kyle (Prow) and I just point them in the right direction,
but these boys are all so coachable."
“About six years,
ago we were winning maybe three matches a year and now it’s been three years
in a row that we’ve been Sectional champs,” Mario added. “The program has
come such a long way.”
Valparaiso lost 4-1
to Chesterton during the Duneland Athletic Conference season, but adjusted
their sectional lineup while the Trojans stood pat.
“They made a couple
lineup changes and it was in their favor and made them stronger in doubles,
but we weren’t going to adjust,” Bour said. "A lot of credit to Valpo
because they fight us every year no matter how well we're playing. They
always come out and give us a match and it's unbelievable what they continue
to do over there."
In doubles, Cameron
Cook and Chad Whelan lost 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 to Matt Cory and Ray Kreloff.
Ryan Harmon and Robert Morgia were beaten 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 by Joe McMurtrey
and Nick Feltgen.
The Trojans will
face No. 14 South Bend St. Joseph’s in the IHSAA Portage Regional on Tuesday
beginning at 4:15 p.m.
“Our focus now
shifts to St. Joe in the Regional,” Bour said. “We’ll start preparing for
them at practice (Friday) and again on Monday to get ourselves ready.”