Success breeds success

Photo by Zack EldridgeLa Porte's Rachel Kaminski returns the ball in Thursday’s La Porte Sectional final at No. 2 singles against New Prairie at the Northwest Athletic Club.

La PORTE — For Rachel Kaminski, she's essentially a microcosm of her team.

The junior No. 2 singles player is undefeated with a superb 24-0 record. La Porte's girls tennis team is also unblemished at an exceptional 21-0. 

So it's no coincidence that her determination and play rubs off on her teammates and pushes them to do better.

"I think it does," Slicers' coach Don Varda said. "She's very coachable. She listens extremely well. She sets a really high standard for our work ethic. We've had a match or two where I thought we were kind of slow getting out of the gate, we weren't really going at it full steam, but not Rachel. She's come out every match and gone full steam. Rachel has never lagged. I have to give her a lot of credit for that."

Kaminski and La Porte recently hoisted the sectional trophy for the fifth straight year, downing New Prairie 5-0 in the final.

That advanced the squad to the La Porte Regional, where the Slicers and Kaminski meet perennial power South Bend St. Joseph in a regional semifinal at 4:30 p.m. Tuesday. The Indians ended La Porte's season last year, 3-2, in a regional semifinal.

It was only a year ago when the Slicers had an undefeated player for the whole season. Tally Wolf claimed a perfect mark at No. 2 singles, going 24-0. 

Kaminski, meanwhile, is still perfect this campaign and gunning for more.

“It really shows all the hard work I put in in the winter really paid off,” Kaminski said. “Just continually hitting at the NAC (Northwest Athletic Club) and taking lessons with Bob Modesto really helped me. I just grew confidence because next year we're losing two of our singles' players. So it just makes me feel comfortable that I'm ready to play next year also with them gone.”

In the La Porte Sectional final last Thursday, Kaminski downed New Prairie's Anna Holvoet 6-0, 6-2 at No. 2 singles for the team's first point.

After capturing all of the games in the opening set, Kaminski took control when Holvoet pulled within 3-2 in the second set. She won that set 6-2 to seal the match. That kept Kaminski's flawless season intact.

Her coach has been very impressed with her colossal success.

“It's very hard,” Varda said. “It's incredibly hard. I'm really proud of her. Her confidence level has just increased to the point where she's able to play a higher level of tennis and be comfortable in that space. She's able to play at a higher level. A lot of girls try to get safe and try to hit the ball hard, or they just tap the ball. She doesn't do that anymore."

Kaminski added the mental aspect of her game has improved most this campaign.

“As the season went on, I started to play smarter,” she said. “So I would try and hit corner shots and move them around the court. So it wasn't all just hitting as hard as I could, knowing when and what shots to hit at a certain time.”

Besides now being 21-0, the Slicers claimed the undisputed Duneland Athletic Conference crown with a 7-0 record, and captured their fifth consecutive sectional championship.

In addition, La Porte finished the regular season with a perfect mark of 19-0, the first team to go unblemished in Slicers' girls tennis regular-season history since 1978 when Karen Day excelled for the team.

So how truly special is it that the team finished with a perfect regular season?

“Coming into the season, that was one of our main goals,” Kaminski said. “We wanted to win the DAC, but we also made it a goal to go undefeated. So it's incredible we were able to accomplish that as a team.”

Kaminski was part of a squad that narrowly lost to St. Joseph, 3-2, in last season's regional semifinal.

This year, Kaminski and La Porte are striving for a different result.

“We've only been able to get to the first round of the regional," she said. "So for us as a team, it would be an accomplishment alone just to beat St. Joe, and then, worrying about Day 2. Since I've been on the team, we have not beat St. Joe, so it'd just be a huge accomplishment as a team also, to be able to knock out someone we've never been able to.”

La Porte Girls Tennis Regional

at the LeRoy Courts in Kesling Park

Semifinals

Tuesday, 4:30 p.m.

La Porte vs. South Bend St. Joseph

Penn vs. Valparaiso

Final

Wednesday, 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday's winners meet

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