NAPPANEE — NorthWood defeated Fairfield, 4-1, in the opening round of the girls tennis Sectional 48 tournament Wednesday, but that wasn’t what many people were talking about when the match concluded.
After the lineups were announced for the Panthers and Falcons before the match began, NorthWood head coach Tif Schwartz noticed Fairfield’s lineup sounded different than the one the Falcons submitted before the sectional began. According to the IHSAA, schools must submit their lineups the Thursday before the sectionals begin. This allows teams to see how their sectional opponents will be stacking their lineup, and vice versa.
Schwartz addressed the issue with Fairfield coach Mike Filbrun. After checking the official submitted roster, the Falcons were forced to change their lineup. Fairfield’s No. 1 and 2 singles players, Madison Cole and Kylie Miller, stayed the same. Their No. 3 singles and both No. 1 and 2 doubles positions, however, changed.
Instead of having Faith Bontrager at No. 3 singles, Madeline Gawthrop and Riley Miller at No. 1 doubles and Faith Adam and Kaylie Gaby at No. 2 doubles, they had to have Riley Miller at No. 3 singles, Gawthrop and Gaby at No. 1 doubles and Bontrager and Adam at No. 2 doubles.
Filbrun thought he had submitted his new lineup in time, but a miscommunication error forced Fairfield to revert to their original lineup.
“It’s the nature of sports, it’s the nature of life — there are going to be times over and over again where your best-laid plans don’t work out. And, you just have to roll with the punches,” Filbrun said. “I thought the girls really did.”
Schwartz was hesitant to mention the lineup initially, but ultimately knew she had to say something. Had Fairfield played with an incorrect lineup, they would’ve been disqualified and forced to forfeit.
“It was just gut-wrenching because I knew, ethically, I needed to say something. And I would hope that’s something somebody would do to me if I had messed up,” Schwartz said. “My whole thought on it was, ‘At this point, I know it might not be what they wanted to do, but at least they have an option to still win the match.’ Especially when it affects three courts.”
The lineup wasn’t foreign to Fairfield. Both doubles pairs had played together with each other before in the past, and Riley Miller had played No. 3 singles a couple of times throughout the season.
Gawthrop and Gaby were the lone winner for Fairfield, winning 6-2, 6-3. Since they won No. 1 doubles, they get to advance to the individual sectional tournament that starts next week.
“As long as you’ve played half of your matches at doubles in the season, you’re allowed to advance at No. 1 doubles. So while they have not played half of their matches together at No. 1 doubles, they have both played half of their matches at doubles,” Filbrun said.
NorthWood won the other four matches, including No. 3 singles Gretchen Adams. She rolled her ankle during the Northern Lakes Conference tournament last week, forcing her to miss the rest of the tournament. Adams bounced back, though, with a 6-2, 6-2 victory.
“I was extremely impressed by Gretchen, being hurt and not knowing what she could give us,” Schwartz said. “She told me she felt like she was at 90 percent ... she came out playing great.”
No. 1 singles was won by Reegan Miller, 6-1, 6-2. Alex Jesse won 6-2, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. At No. 2 doubles, it was the duo of Caroline Mullet and Kate Stillson winning 6-4, 6-3.
It was a disappointing end to the season for Fairfield, but Filbrun thought his team responded to the last-second adversity well.
“I thought there was that initial shock of, ‘You have to switch over to this court, and you have to switch over to this court.’ You’re just not expecting that at all,” Filbrun said. “I thought we responded extremely well and played a really solid match.”
NorthWood now plays Jimtown in the sectional semifinal Thursday afternoon. The Jimmies are the only team the two-time defending sectional champion Panthers haven’t seen this season. Their scheduled regular season match was cancelled due to rain.
“We don’t really know what they have, and I told the girls that you just have to come ready to play,” Schwartz said. “This is the postseason, so we have to fire up for every match. Every match is a big match.”
Goshen and Bethany Christian clash in the other semifinal.
The championship is slated for Friday at 4:30 p.m.
Austin Hough can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or 574-533-2151, ext. 325. Follow Austin on Twitter @AustinHoughTGN