By BRYAN GASKINS Kokomo Tribune
---- — Taylor’s boys tennis team had a less-than-promising start to the season.
“We lost to Peru in our second match and we lost to Logansport in like our fourth match. It was looking like we were just going to be a pretty average team,” longtime Taylor coach Dave Wise said. “From that point on, it just seemed like every match we got a little bit better.”
That improvement has carried the Titans to one of the best seasons in school history.
Taylor won a share of its second straight Mid-Indiana Conference championship during the regular season, then broke through to win the Kokomo Sectional for the first time since 1981.
Taylor has a 15-3 record, matching the 1982 and 2012 Titan teams for the second-most wins in school history. The 1981 squad went 18-1.
The 2012 squad, with a senior-laden lineup, went 15-4.
“Last year, I’m not sure we got better [over the course of the season] because they were already at such a good level, they were already experienced. The improvement this year has just been something that you just don’t see very often,” Wise said.
Wise is in his 39th season as Taylor’s coach. He topped the 400-win mark this year.
Taylor plays Logansport (17-3) at 4:30 p.m. today in a Kokomo Regional semifinal. No. 1-ranked and defending state champion Carmel (19-1) and Harrison (11-6) are in the other semifinal. The winners will return Wednesday to play for the title.
Logansport beat Taylor 4-1 in the regular season. The Titans’ point came from sophomore Camden Kimbler at No. 2 singles.
“The guys are looking forward to it. We played Logan really early in the year. We’re a different team now,” Wise said.
The Titans feature three rock-solid points. Senior Jack Lipchik at No. 1 singles, Kimbler at No. 2 and senior Austin Douglas and sophomore Cole Schroeder at No. 1 doubles all own 19-3 records.
“I’m not sure I’ve ever had three spots that have had that kind of success,” Wise said.
Lipchik was a proven veteran entering the season. He played at No. 3 singles over his freshman and sophomore years, going 15-3 in 2011, and he was 17-2 at No. 2 singles last year. He has made a smooth transition to the No. 1 spot and has been playing red-hot tennis in recent weeks.
Wise needed Kimbler and the Douglas-Schroeder team to make big jumps from last year.
“Camden was the eighth guy on our team last year. He played just a little at No. 2 doubles,” Wise said. “That’s a huge jump, to go from almost No. 1 JV to No. 2 singles. He has done a great job.”
Douglas and Schroeder were moving up from No. 2 doubles to No. 1 doubles.
“There is a big difference between 1 and 2 doubles with the level of play, the pace of the ball and everything. But those guys have clicked together,” Wise said. “It’s easy to get your singles guys lined up: Who can beat who? But it’s kind of hard to find a doubles team that plays like they do and gets along like they do. They have done a really good job all season long. They haven’t lost since the Logansport match.”
Taylor No. 3 singles player Casey Glick is also enjoying a nice season. The senior, in his first season of singles play, has a 16-5 record.
The No. 2 doubles team has a pair of first-year players — sophomore Connor Leicht and Treaver Harris. They gave the Titans a nice boost with a pair of wins during sectional play.
Logansport rolled to its eighth straight sectional title, beating Carroll, Twin Lakes and Cass, all by 5-0 scores.
The No. 1 singles matchup has an interesting angle. Lipchik and the Berries’ Bryan Zehner are former summer doubles partners.