The past two seasons for the Carmel boys tennis team have ended with the Greyhounds agonizingly close to a state title.
North Central has been the team in Carmel’s way, having ended the Greyhounds’ season in the state finals. Top-ranked Carmel (17-0) is hoping for some revenge Friday when they host the No. 2-ranked and two-time defending state champion Panthers in the 3 p.m. state quarterfinals.
The winner will advance to Saturday’s 10 a.m. semifinals at North Central to play the other quarterfinal winner in the top half of the bracket between No. 4 Jeffersonville (21-0) and No. 20 Culver Academies (17-2), with the championship match set for 2 p.m.
The Greyhounds dropped a 3-2 decision to North Central (18-0) in last year’s championship match and their only loss this year came to the Panthers by the same score.
“It’s definitely going to be tough playing such a great team, but after last year’s loss we have been working extra hard to get back in this position to face North Central,” said Carmel sophomore No. 1 singles player Patrick Fletchall (20-3), one of only two players back from that team. “I think being (ranked No. 1), as of right now, gives us some extra confidence and we are going to need that going into the match.”
A trio of sophomores anchor Carmel’s three singles spots with four seniors comprising the doubles teams, including the 14-0 tandem of Zach Hennessey and Kenny Miller.
North Central also has just two players back from last year’s championship team in seniors JT Wynne at No. 2 singles and JJ Kroot at No. 1 doubles. Senior No. 1 singles player Steven Christie (22-1) joined the team this year after transferring to North Central.
“We’re relatively young and inexperienced,” said North Central coach Dan Brunette. “It’s a little different than in years past.”
The Greyhounds are hoping for a different result, as well, as they look to prevent the Panthers from capturing their state-best 20th championship.
“They’re definitely on a mission,” Carmel coach Spencer Fields said of his team. “They definitely want to avenge the previous years’ losses. As their coach, I’ve been very impressed with their effort and intensity.”
Park Tudor, Perry Meridian in the other bracket
The players for Park Tudor (17-4) would do well to listen to the advice from their coaches this weekend. First-year head coach Kevin Gill (1996-98) and assistant Sam Miles (2006, ’09) both won multiple team titles with Park Tudor.
The third-ranked Panthers will face No. 9 Jasper (16-4) in one of today’s 3 p.m. quarterfinals at Center Grove.
“It is very exciting for us to have a shot to win one as a coach,” said Gill, adding that his team’s overall depth and strength at the doubles positions have been keys to its success this season.
Unranked Perry Meridian (23-5) will face No. 11 Leo (23-2) in the other Center Grove match. The quarterfinal winners will meet in the Saturday morning semifinals at North Central.
Five of the Falcons’ seven players are seniors, led by No. 1 Andrew Denning (20-6), as Perry returns to the state finals for the first time in 40 years.
“I feel great and I think they do, too,” said Perry Meridian coach Rich Lord. “They’re just thrilled for the opportunity … and the fans, administrators, kids and myself just couldn’t be more excited.”