La PORTE — A few minutes after La Porte's boys tennis team earned an improbable regional championship over South Bend St. Joseph on Wednesday, Don Varda was asked about Carmel.
The Slicers coach wasn't backing down from his team squaring off with the three-time defending state-champion and undefeated Greyhounds in the one-match Culver Academies Semistate today at about 1 p.m.
"We're going to play the best team in the state and I love it. I welcome it," said Varda following the Slicers' dramatic 3-2 victory over the Indians to clinch its own regional at the LeRoy Courts, their first regional title in 12 years.
Varda hopes his players use the same formula that hoisted the regional trophy, namely grit and not surrendering anything.
“My biggest wish for that match is the same thing as this match,” he said. “Go out and play them as hard as you can. Go out and play these kids. And I know they're great players. I'm well familiar with Carmel. But we're going to go out and play them as tough as we possibly can.”
After beating St. Joe, La Porte (18-6) was beaming.
After all, it was the Slicers' boys first regional championship since 2007, they beat a one-loss team and a squad that normally advances out of the regional.
Add it all up and La Porte had a right to be ecstatic.
Varda said he was so proud of his players when his squad sealed the match versus the Indians (23-2) at No. 2 doubles.
“I was just so happy for the boys,” he said. “They hit the balls. They make the plays. They pulled all this together as a team. I'm really, really, really touched by this win. I'm just so happy for those boys. It's big time. I mean, La Porte wins the regional? That's huge. That's huge."
Now the Slicers meet top-ranked Carmel (22-0). Due to the weather forecast, the match will be played indoors at the Gable Tennis Complex. Host Culver Academies faces Munster at 11 a.m. indoors, while the Slicers-Greyhounds follow at roughly 1 p.m. Their contest was orginially supposed to be outdoors at 11 a.m. Each match is for a semistate title.
Carmel blanked West Lafayette 5-0 to capture the Kokomo Regional on Wednesday.
The Greyhounds are looking for a record fourth straight state crown. Just one team has won state four consecutive times, North Central.
Last year, Carmel went a perfect 20-0 en route to the state championship, topping its biggest nemesis, North Central, 3-2 for the title. That Greyhounds' lineup featured two seniors, two juniors, two freshmen and one sophomore.
La Porte’s lineup this season, meanwhile, is comprised of senior Andy Emmons at No. 1 singles, junior Graham Siefker at No. 2 singles, junior Alex Ake at No. 3 singles, junior Carson Stalbaum and senior Tristen Poe at No. 1 doubles, and sophomore Liam Wolf and freshman Brock Schultz at No. 2 doubles.
With only two seniors, Emmons and Poe, the future also looks bright for the Slicers.
But right now, La Porte is living in the present.
Culver Academies Semistate
La Porte vs. Carmel
1 p.m. today
Indoors at Gable Tennis Complex