La PORTE — Despite dropping the first set in sluggish fashion Tuesday, Tristen Poe and Carson Stalbaum didn’t waver.

Despite trailing 2-1 in the second, La Porte’s No. 1 doubles duo didn’t waver.

Despite a long deuce point and facing a few game points in the decisive third set, albeit with a 5-0 lead, they didn’t waver.

Poe and Stalbaum’s determination and three-set win helped the Slicers’ boys tennis team earn the third and final point to knock off Duneland Conference rival Valparaiso, 4-1, in its own regional semifinal to advance to today’s regional final.

“I couldn't ask for a better team to encourage us all the way around,” Stalbaum said. “That first set we made a lot of errors. But Valpo's a very, very good team. I've got to give credit to Will (Behrend). He's a great player. But just staying consistent and trying to keep the ball in play really helped us to come back."

After losing the opening set, 6-3, Poe and Stalbaum sealed the match at No. 1 doubles, rebounding following playing lackluster early on. They prevailed in three sets, 3-6, 6-2, 6-0, over Matthew Levenda and Behrend. That set off a wild celebration on the No. 1 doubles court at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park.

The Slicers (17-6) avenged a 3-2 regular-season setback to the Vikings (9-8).

“I was very confident we'd play well tonight,” La Porte coach Don Varda said. “The boys practiced extremely hard all week. The key for us was they took it as a team. These are pressure-cooker matches, a lot on the line. I said, 'Guys, none of you can win the match on your own. We have to play as a team. We'll win this as a team.'”

Poe and Stalbaum closed out their contest after Valpo hit a return shot of Poe's serve into the net. That allowed them to outlast Levenda and Behrend after numerous deuce points and facing a couple of game points.

“That last point was incredible,” Poe said. “Obviously, I couldn't have done it without my partner, keeping me up, keeping me in play. But really just having that mentality of going out there and knowing we can actually get this done and over with, get this win for our team.”

To begin the night, La Porte’s Andy Emmons dispatched Calvin McMurtrey 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1 singles.

“Andy was in the zone tonight,” Varda said. “He was on fire. He played extremely well. He played aggressively the entire match and never let up.”

At No. 2 doubles, Liam Wolf and Brock Schultz downed Calvin VanBenthuysen and Zachary Tagalia 6-3, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles. That put the Slicers ahead 2-0.

“It was tremendous leadership from Liam,” Varda said. “And Brock is playing better and better every time. I was really happy with his play.”

At No. 2 singles, the Slicers’ Graham Siefker dropped a 6-2, 6-1 decision to Spencer Ross, while Alex Ake prevailed 6-4, 5-7, 7-6 (7-2) over Jacob Nightingale at No. 3 singles in a three-set marathon to close the match.

La Porte meets South Bend St. Joseph (23-1) for the regional crown at 4:30 p.m. today. The Indians beat Penn 4-1 in Tuesday’s other semifinal. New Prairie’s Nick Boyd plays in the individual state tournament at 4 p.m., also at the LeRoy Courts.

"It was extremely thrilling for me," said the third-year coach Varda. "It was my biggest win with La Porte boys team for sure. It was a huge win. This isn't easy. This is a quality Valpo team and a well-coached team with extremely talented players." 

La Porte Regional

Semifinals

La Porte 4, Valparaiso 1

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