Boys tennis: Portage duo almost a perfect match
BY JOSH LICHTENFELD Post-Tribune correspondent September 10, 2012 10:44PM
Tyler Soberg, left, and Patrick Derr comprise Portage's #1 doubles team. The seniors, playing together for the first time this year, are 7-3 on the season. The Indian's are 9-1 overall. | Andy Lavalley~Sun-Times Media
P-T Top 5
3. Crown Point
of the Week
Josh Palmer, Michigan City
The No. 1 singles player led the Wovles with his 6-1, 6-3 dual sets win over Nick Cuidak
of South Bend Clay
Updated: October 12, 2012 6:18AM
In the constantly evolving friendship and camaraderie of Patrick Derr and Tyler Soberg, teaming up this fall to play on the same doubles team for the first time really wasn’t a giant leap.
But in what has turned out to be one of Portage’s strongest starts in the last few years, their efforts, abilities and cohesion play a major role. The Indians rattled off nine consecutive wins to begin the campaign and are 9-1 overall, 3-1 in the ultra competitive Duneland Athletic Conference race.
“We’re both real good friends on and off the court and I think that helps out a bit with the chemistry,” said Derr of the No. 1 pair’s 7-3 mark in the regular season.
Indeed these are two athletes who were aware of each other’s competitiveness years before coming to high school, years before taking on tennis for the first time when then new coach Gary Hayes was looking for kids willing to learn and compete.
According to Soberg, the seniors who added on tennis as a way to improve elements their baseball skills can trace their journey back to the days of denim league baseball.
Last spring Derr saw some playing time at second base, while Soberg occasionally fielded balls at third base, a scenario not uncommon over the years.
So when Soberg’s No. 1 partner from last fall Jeff McElfresh came in showing vast signs of improvement — causing Hayes to re-organizing the lineup by switching McElfresh to No. 1 singles (where he also has a 7-3 record) and moving Derr from that spot to doubles — the old buddies maintained, if not improved the No. 1 doubles performance from 2011’s showing.
“With me and Jeff we were more aggressive at the net (finishing at 9-6 last fall), but I think with me and Patrick, we play better as a team, because we progressively move up to the net,” Soberg said. “We approach the net better and have more of a baseline game I think.”
That’s not to say there haven’t been some speed bumps. Many of their early-season wins were quite ugly. Then some of their bad habits caught up to them against LaPorte, leading to their first loss.
Though Portage went on to notch a historic 3-2 win — their first victory over the Slicers in 12 years — an outspoken Hayes expected more.
“I started getting in their grill about getting up and playing a little more steady,” said Hayes, who’s year features his 400th win and a night-and-day difference in results from his first ever practices with the Indians before the 2009 season.
The tandem’s other two losses also came to competitive opponents — Wheeler and Crown Point (the only team to defeat Portage).
And they bounced back from LaPorte to hang on and defeat Lee Sayger and Brad Staszewski of Lake Central, 4-6, 6-4, 7-6 (7-4), helping cap off a dynamic 5-0 win over the Indians last Tuesday.
So, with the potential to keep improving before the postseason, this squad’s determination is fiery.
“We’re never going to give up. We could be down 0-5 but we’re still going to fight back and think that we can win that much,” Derr said.