Predictably, Friday night’s Sectional 44 championship match between the Marion Giants and the Mississinewa Indians was a hard-fought, competitive battle between two incredibly gifted tennis programs.
Much like the previous evening, the deciding point came down to No. 2 singles, where Marion’s Jack Fauser and Mississinewa’s Ethan Sample duked it out for nearly two hours, playing well after all the other matches had gone final.
However, at the end of the evening, it was Fauser’s warrior mentality on the court and his mental fortitude in the match’s important moments that proved to be the difference as the Giants captured their fourth straight sectional championship with a 3-2 triumph over Mississinewa.
Marion has now won 11 of the past 13 sectional championships and 32 in the program’s history.
Vikram Oddiraju earned Marion’s second point at No. 1 singles, defeating John Oliver 6-0, 6-1, while Marion’s No. 2 doubles team of Clayton Drook and Ryan Sebastian defeated Kannen Smith and Aiden Tignor came away with a 6-0, 6-2 triumph.
Ryan Scott and Riley Fuqua picked up an emphatic 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 1 doubles, while Hayden Rowley defeated Alex Spitzer at No. 3 singles, 6-3, 6-1.
“It was a team effort,” Marion Head Coach Doug Porter said. “We don’t have a lot of margin for error on this team. Of our 16 wins, nine of them have been 3-2. You never know who is going to get that third point sometimes. Tonight, it was No. 2 doubles that had to get that third point.”
Despite the loss, Mississinewa Head Coach Bruce Fleming was pleased with how his team battled against Marion all evening.
“The kids fought,” Fleming said. “I thought John did a good job, Vikram is just so strong. I think Ethan played well…but Jack is a fighter. We couldn’t get the important point on his court. We could get plenty of points, but the important points just kept going to Jack. Marion deserved it tonight.”
Fauser and Sample know each other very well, having gone head-to-head multiple times over the last four years.
“I love Ethan to death,” Fauser said. “He came up to me after my match yesterday, and he told me that he was excited to play me, and I felt the exact same way. Ethan is a great player, and it’s always a pleasure playing with him. We both respect and love each other.”
While the two are friends both on and off the court, their competitive spirits bring out the best from both of them. The two scratched and clawed for every point, right down to the final serve.
“Ethan is such a fighter, and the quality of tennis between those two boys compared to a month ago was at a much higher level,” Marion Head Coach Doug Porter said. “We knew it was going to be a fight from the very beginning to the very end, and Jack was on it. I kept emphasizing every point and every game and to not take a point off. We were consistent and put it away. Jack was mentally tough.”
Coming off another tough match against Madison-Grant’s Jace Gilman the night before, Fauser showed zero sign of fatigue, gliding and moving effortlessly and using both his forehand and backhand effectively, keeping Sample on his heels throughout the contest.
Together with Oddiraju’s strong play at No. 1 singles, Marion’s top two singles’ players paved the way to Marion’s eventual victory.
“There is something special about those kids, Vic and Jack,” Porter said. “The hard work they put in over the summer and over the winter, it’s just a testament to their dedication to the game, and it pays off on nights like tonight.”
Marion will face a familiar foe in the Delta Eagles, a team they have battled with for regional supremacy over the past decade. While it will be tough matchup, Porter believes that his group has what it takes to make some noise in the regional tournament.
“Delta is always strong, they are always tough, and they are coached very well,” Porter said. “Their doubles are very good. Vikram knows his No. 1 opponent really well. It will be a good, tough match. I think Jack has a great chance at No. 2 singles. Three singles is going to be a battle for Alex [Spitzer], but I think he can do it.
“It’s going to be close, but I think it’s going to be a typical Delta-Marion match. Hopefully, we will come out on top, but I think we will play hard and go down fighting.”