Bears, Shamrocks seek to defend titles

St. Joseph’s Dylan Olson, front and Will Christy, back, take on Lakeshore during a No. 2 doubles match on Sept. 11 at St. Joseph.

The St. Joseph boys tennis team is no stranger to success.

The Bears have won 21 regional titles in the last 23 seasons and believe they have what it takes to win No. 22 Thursday at the Division 3 regional tournament in Sturgis.

Lakeshore and Niles will also be competing, with the first matches beginning at 9 a.m.

St. Joseph’s No. 1 singles player Justice Waldmann won the No. 2 singles regional title last year.

“Our strength has been the fact that we get production throughout the lineup,” St. Joseph coach Pat Hoffmann said. “It hasn’t just been one or two guys or doubles teams, it has been everyone.

“We’ve been balanced in all flights.”

Hoffmann named Gull Lake, who the Bears defeated 6-2 earlier this season, and Sturgis among the top competition. Hoffmann believes his team is peaking at the right time.

“Our No. 1 and No. 2 doubles teams have really come together,” Hoffmann said. “We’ve been getting more competitive there as the season has come along. Our singles started off a little slow with everyone moving up a spot this year but they’re competing very well too.”

Thursday’s Division 4 regional at Paw Paw will feature defending champion Berrien Springs, as well as Bridgman, Buchanan, Coloma, and Brandywine. The Shamrocks won five of eight flights to win the BCS/SAC Tournament on Monday and locked up the BCS championship in the process.

Berrien Springs, Paw Paw, and Buchanan are among the top teams in the field. The Shamrocks edged Paw Paw by three points to win last year’s regional.

“They have some strong flights,” Berrien Springs head coach David Shembarger said. “Brandywine could be a sleeper. They’ve been competitive with us.”

Berrien Springs sophomore Payton Anderson (No. 2 singles), freshman Paul Cho (No. 3 singles), and sophomore tandem Erik Belin and Adam Johnson (No. 3 doubles) are seeded No. 1 in Thursday’s tournament. The No. 1 doubles team of Jeff Shembarger and Kyle Johnson return to defend their regional championship.

“Hopefully that gets us to the championship on those flights,” Shembarger said. “No. 1 singles player Colton Stout has been a great team leader for us. We lost five seniors from last year’s team. We’ve had a lot of kids step up this year, so a regional title would be awesome.”

South Haven will be at the Division 4 regional held at Allegan.

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