MISHAWAKA – Even with the Penn High School band practicing on the baseball field and a girls soccer game happening less than 300 feet away, the loudest thing on the Penn campus Tuesday might have been the South Bend Saint Joseph boys tennis team.
It was by design.
The 18th-ranked Saint Joe team likes to be vocal when they play. The players can be heard screaming after almost every point, especially the big ones.
They had a lot of reasons to be loud Tuesday, as they knocked off No. 24 Penn, 4-1, to remain unbeaten on the season.
“It’s one of our pillars,” first-year Saint Joseph head coach Matt Halfpenny said. “It’s something I communicate to these guys. I want us to celebrate our success, individually and collectively as a team. … At the end of the day, I don’t necessarily look at scores. I look at our performance, our effort and our attitude. The success will take care of itself as long as we focus on those details.”
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While Saint Joe (9-0, 5-0 Northern Indiana Conference) picked up the team win, the lone Penn victory was the highlight of the contest.
Penn’s Chris Chen outlasts Saint Joseph’s Colin Blumentritt
While Penn junior Chris Chen may have won in straight sets of Saint Joseph senior Colin Blumentritt, it was anything but easy.
Two of the best players in northern Indiana battled for nearly three hours, with Chen eventually winning by a 7-6 (7-5), 7-5 margin. It seemed like every game between the two reached deuce point, with each player winning several lengthy points throughout the contest.
After each player held their serve through the first 11 games of the second set, Chen was finally able to break Blumentritt to secure the victory.
The turning point for Chen came in the first-set tiebreaker. Blumentritt built a quick 3-0 lead, seizing all the momentum in the process. The Penn junior gathered himself after that, rallying to score seven of the next nine points to take the tiebreaker from the Saint Joe senior.
“Historically, I don’t have the best record when it comes to tiebreaks,” Chen admitted. “For some reason, I just get really nervous when it gets to tiebreaks. This time, though, I took it one point at a time. I didn’t even think about the score.”
Chen and Blumentritt are good friends, even having played as a doubles team in a tournament over the summer. Despite all their one-on-one encounters in summer competitions, Tuesday was their first matchup in a high school contest.
“Ever since a year ago, we’ve joked about playing each other,” Chen said. “And as we both got No. 1 singles spots, we went, ‘Oh shoot, we’re actually going to be playing each other.’ It was a little nerve-wracking. Honestly, I was way more nervous than other matches. But I also had way more fun playing with someone I know.”
Saint Joseph sweeps the other four courts
While there was plenty of drama at No. 1 singles, Saint Joseph kept it mostly stress free at the other four spots.
No. 2 singles was the first to finish, with Saint Joe freshman Jacob Hix picking up a 6-2, 6-1 win over Penn junior Noah Sytsma, who was playing in place of an injured Evan Knapp.
“This was our first match without him,” said Penn coach Eric Bowers of Knapp. “We didn’t really know his status until (Tuesday). I told Evan and the team that their health is bigger than any tennis match.”
Saint Joseph then closed the team win in about a five-minute span. Senior Will Westberry finished up a 6-0, 6-4 win over Penn sophomore Ben Stambaugh at No. 3 singles, followed right behind by a 6-0, 6-4 victory at No. 1 doubles for sophomore Luke Blumentritt and junior Jake Westberry over Penn’s all-sophomore duo of Quinn Lippert and Caleb Oneese.
The final victory for the visitors came at No. 2 doubles, with seniors Corman Kennedy and Ben Brady winning 6-3, 7-5 over Penn senior Jaden Shim and sophomore Jacob Kyle.
“Jacob at No. 2, and Luke and Jake at No. 1 doubles really stepped up (Tuesday),” Halfpenny said. “They were very focused right from the get-go, which I liked because sometimes that’s a little bit challenging with them.”
For Penn (8-3, 2-1 NIC), its in the middle of a tough stretch of the schedule. They played No. 13 Culver Academy, No. 17 Munster and West Lafayette at the Culver Invitational over the weekend and had No. 21 Goshen Wednesday ahead of the NIC tournament next week at Leeper Park.
“I guess bragging rights head-to-head, they’ve got that now,” said Bowers of Saint Joseph. “But as far as bragging rights for the overall conference title, all of that gets decided (this) Tuesday.”
South Bend Saint Joseph 4, Penn 1
No. 1 singles: Chris Chen (P) def. Colin Blumentritt (S) 7-6 (7-5), 7-5
No. 2 singles: Jacob Hix (S) def. Noah Sytsma (P) 6-2, 6-1
No. 3 singles: Will Westberry (S) def. Ben Stambaugh (P) 6-0, 6-4
No. 1 doubles: Luke Blumentritt and Jake Westberry (S) def. Quinn Lippert and Caleb Oneese (P) 6-0, 6-4
No. 2 doubles: Cormac Kennedy and Ben Brady (S) def Jaden Shim and Jacob Kyle (P) 6-3, 7-5
This article originally appeared on South Bend Tribune: South Bend Saint Joseph picks up NIC boys tennis win over Penn