The Journal Gazette
Sunday, May 15, 2022 1:00 am

Homestead confident despite losses

Spartans fall 3-2 to pair of high-caliber foes in dual meets

VICTORIA JACOBSEN | The Journal Gazette

After splitting the first two sets against her St. Joseph opponent on Saturday morning, Homestead senior Anna Topmiller said she had no intention of taking her foot off the gas in the tiebreaker. 

“I knew I didn't come back after losing the first set for nothing. You've got to dig and eek it out, because you've already gone so far. You have to bring it home,” Topmiller said. 

At that point in the match, St. Joseph had already won at No. 1 singles and both doubles positions to clinch the dual win, but Topmiller won her tiebreaker against Maggie Nguyen 10-5 to secure a point against the No. 5 team in the state. Soon after, Homestead No. 3 singles player Layla Kelly came off the court with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Lily Mayfield.

In the early afternoon, No. 17 Homestead would fall by the same margin, 3-2, against No. 15 North Central to finish the regular season with an 11-4 dual record. 

Carroll hosted the same two visiting teams in reverse order Saturday, falling to North Central 4-1 before being swept by St. Joseph 5-0.

Homestead coach Michael Hower said that taking a few points off St. Joseph, which has defending singles state champion Molly Bellia at the No. 1 position, was especially exciting as several Spartans have shifted into new roles after a teammate went out with a season-ending back injury.

“It's great, because that's a newer spot for Anna, against a good player and a good team. That's why we schedule matches like this, so we can get ready for the postseason,” Hower said. “Layla at No. 3, that's a big point. And honestly, No. 2 doubles (Elaina Schilt and Lydia Stout) played great, because South Bend St. Joe had the luxury of taking their No. 1 doubles team from last year and moving them to No. 2 doubles. So I'm excited.”

Topmiller had begun the season playing No. 1 doubles before moving into the No. 2 singles spot.

“A lot of it is mental,” Topmiller said of the difference between the two. “I played singles in the offseason, so I was pretty well prepared. But not having that partner to keep you up and have someone to depend on, it's just you out there, I think that's a little bit of a mental hurdle.”

In Homestead's second match, Ellie Cook beat North Central's Emelyn Harris 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles, and Schilt and Stout won a back-and-forth doubles match with a score of 7-5, 1-6, 15-13.

Carroll's lone win came at the No. 3 singles position, where Katie Siegwarth beat North Central's Sophie Johnson 7-6 (4), 6-4. The Chargers head into the postseason with a 6-15 record.

“The story of the season is that we're young, so we've improved a lot as the season has gone on,” said Carroll coach Kyle Stoffel, whose varsity lineup Saturday included three freshmen and just two seniors. “I don't know if it's a moment, but it's ongoing, you see at No. 2 singles a certain hit she couldn't do six weeks ago.”

The Chargers were soundly beaten by St. Joseph on Saturday (only Kenna Shoup at No. 2 singles and Siegwarth at No. 3 won more than one game in their matches), but Stoffel said he thinks those sorts of experiences can be valuable for a lineup that's still largely green. 

“Hopefully it's going to inspire them, so they can see what really good looks like. They can strive, and if they don't get there then they can get part of the way there,” the Charger coach said.  

The state tournament brackets will be released by the IHSAA on Monday night, and sectional tournaments will run from Wednesday through Saturday. 

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