Boys tennis: Eric Cender helps Valpo reach state finals
By Josh Lichtenfeld Post-Tribune correspondent October 12, 2012 12:10AM
Valparaiso No. 3 singles Eric Cender returns a volley in the IHSAA boys semi-state match at Culver Military Acdemy Saturday Oct. 6, 2012. ( Sun Times Media Photo~Joe Raymond)
Boys tennis state finals
Valparaiso (17-2) vs. Bloomington South (16-3)
No. 1 singles — Ben Kalisch (V) vs. Ronnie Schneider
No. 2 singles — Marty Pochop (V) vs. Jake Frederickson
No. 3 singles — Eric Cender (V) faces Sam Karcher
No. 1 doubles — Peter Williams and Jared Folke (V) vs. Matt Helm and Alex Jung
No. 2 doubles — Domi Szabo and Pall Baggett (V) vs. Matt Johnsen and Will Piekarsky
The skinny — Underdog status means very little to the hungry Vikings. With driven seniors Kalisch and Pochop vying for an even bigger finish than the quick exit in the 2010 tournament, this year could see an even bigger production ratio. But the difficulty starts up in the singles bouts, especially with defending state champion Schneider on the other side.
Updated: November 13, 2012 6:38AM
In a program the caliber of Valparaiso, landing one of the three singles spots doesn’t come easy. There’s always someone lurking to break into rotation.
And though his other seasons weren’t met with such advancement, senior Eric Cender wasn’t done pursuing this goal before the fall began. The upperclassman had tasted some varsity experience in a rotation with the No. 2 doubles team in 2011 and wanted more.
“Before the season, I played a lot in the winter and the offseason and kept playing,” Cender said. “Because I do enjoy singles more than doubles, because it fits my playing style a bit more.”
Along with the continuation of further practice came some key improvements as the lineup was being set at the beginning of 2012. In his final year with the Vikings, Cender joined the established tandem of No. 1 player Ben Kalisch and No. 2 player Marty Pochop to round out singles.
But simply coming aboard wasn’t enough. Cender’s 20-5 record, including a pair of comebacks in the state tournament, has often been the team’s key third point. One third of Valparaiso’s tri-captains (including Kalisch and Pochop), he has been a significant factor in the Vikings making their second trip to state in three years. They’ll face Bloomington South in Friday’s quarterfinal round in Indianapolis.
Much like Pochop, who transcended from doubles as a freshman to work into singles the very next season, according Valparaiso (17-2) coach Tim Shideler, the effort is an example of never giving up.
“I think the other kids on the team saw that and he saw that, it’s never too late to step up,” Shideler said.
However, especially for the seniors, there was a sense of urgency to put behind them disappointing results from the 2011 postseason. Following a statewide realignment, Penn (one of the top teams in the state) was shifted to the Portage Regional and ended Valparaiso’s streak of trips to semistate in a 3-2 loss.
So, starting with the 3-2 reversal over the same club in this year’s regional, and then following up with another similar result over the higher-ranked Culver Academies at semistate (going from a 4-1 loss in September to a 4-1 win on last week), the Duneland Conference champs are hopeful to keep it going for a couple more big days.
“Last year we felt like we ended short, because the year before that we went down to state, too,” said Cender, who notched crucial points in both of those matches, including a statement 7-5, 3-6, 7-6 (9-7) win against Culver. “I think our ultimate goal, aside from playing our best is to win our first match at state and make it to the final four.”