Anytime he’s been asked about postseason success over the years, Taylor boys tennis coach Dave Wise has always had a simple response: If he got into coaching to win sectional championships, he wouldn’t have lasted long.
But, they sure are easy to savor when they come along.
The Titans delivered Wise the second sectional title of his 39-year career Friday, and first since 1981, with a 4-1 victory over host Kokomo, the squad that had defeated Taylor in each of the last two sectional championship matches.
“This one is exceptionally special,” Wise said. “We had such a good team last year, and we came some close last year to winning the sectional. The expectations for this team were not anything like last year’s team. We probably weren’t supposed to win the sectional, but it just seemed as the season went by that things were falling in place. You get this attitude when you’ve lost so many that sometimes you just feel like it’s not going to happen again. Getting to my age, there’s not many chances left. I’m just so happy for the kids, and it’s nice for the school, because we need this kind of success.”
Senior Jack Lipchik started Taylor (15-3) on the right foot with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Craig Simon at No. 1 singles. The No. 1 doubles team of senior Austin Douglas and sophomore Cole Schroder followed with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Brad Dockemeyer and Erik Bowen.
With the Titans leading the match 2-1, that day’s final two spots, Nos. 2 and 3 singles, both went to a third set.
Taylor senior Casey Glick shook off getting blanked in the second set to defeat freshman Grant Patterson at the No. 3 post, 6-4, 0-6, 6-2. Titan sophomore Camden Kimbler outlasted Bryce York in the other three-setter, 6-4, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5) in the final match off the court.
“Our kids showed a little bit of mental toughness,” Wise said. “I’ve seen it develop during this season. There were matches where I didn’t think we were going to win. They just found ways to pull through all season long. The whole team contributes to this, but it starts with our three seniors that have come through for us time after time. Then I have a few sophomores who all contribute as much as anyone could expect them to.”
Kokomo (7-12) picked up a victory at No. 2 doubles, where the tandem of Jake Farkas and Joey Hurlocker topped Conner Leicht and Treaver Harris 6-2, 6-2.
“I was really proud of how our guys fought and battled,” Kokomo coach Shawn Flanary said. “I think their team was the better team with more experience, but our guys made it tough and tight and interesting. I couldn’t be prouder of how we competed. I think we made a lot progress. If we would’ve played this team earlier in the season, I don’t think it would’ve been that close. The main thing, we kept going back for more and made them take it, and they earned it.
Unprompted, Flanary also took the opportunity to expressed his admiration for Wise.
“You couldn’t ask for a better guy, and we’ve been on the winning end of a lot of these,” Flanary said. “He’s just always been a very gracious sportsman. Most people don’t realize this, but this rivalry extends back to [Wise’s] college days. My dad played college tennis against him. I know his son, Mike, well. It’s a little bittersweet because we got beat, but I couldn’t be happier for him and his team.”
Taylor will advance past the sectional round for the first time in 32 years, where it will face Logansport (17-3) Tuesday in the semifinal round of the Kokomo Regional. The Berries beat the Titans 4-1 during the regular season.