With every set of eyes focused on Court 2 during the all-deciding final set of Friday’s Indiana high school boys tennis state quarterfinal matchup, JT Wynne proved once again that he thrives most when everything is on the line.
Almost exactly reminiscent of his clutch win in the Indiana High School Athletic Association state title matchup against Carmel two years ago, Friday’s performance saw Wynne clinch the winning point that has North Central still on target to capture their third straight state title.
The final hard-fought 3-2 score line left North Central coach Dan Brunette appreciating the impressive display that both teams put forth on the courts for nearly two and a half hours.
“We’ve gone back and forth with Carmel all season long,” Brunette said. “I think today was a battle between two very good tennis teams, in which, unfortunately, one team had to lose.
“It took a lot of mental intensity, but at the end of the day we pulled it out and I couldn’t be more pleased with the results for us.”
North Central will be back on the courts Saturday morning as they face Jeffersonville for a chance to advance to Saturday afternoon’s state championship match.
“I think the difference between those past teams and this one, is that we’re family,” Wynne said. “We bond like a family, love each other and I can’t wait to chase the end goal.”
Early on, North Central’s prospects of advancing were looking bleaker by the second.
Carmel jumped out to 2-0 lead through a singles victory from its No. 1 player Patrick Fletchall as well as a doubles win from their No. 2 pair in Neil Shah and John Sullivan.
Not long after Timothy Bradley got the Panthers on the board with a win at No. 3 singles, North Central’s No. 1 doubles pair of JJ Kroot and Jon Turek equalized the score at two matches a piece after winning in three sets.
“They came out pretty strong with those first two wins,” Brunette said. “As a tennis team down 2-0, it’s incredibly hard to come back from that. Winning in three sets the way we did, it was almost like the stars aligned perfectly for us.”
The attention turned squarely to Court 2, where Wynne and Carmel’s Cole Shoults began the the third and final set to decide which school would advance.
For Wynne, it wasn’t anything that he didn’t want.
“I was made for those moments,” he said. “I love it and don’t shy away from it.”
Wynne quickly jumped out to a 4-1 lead, and then fought off a late surge from Shoults to win the set 6-3 and the state semifinal berth in the process.
In a match that could have gone either way down the stretch, Brunette was just happy to have Wynne when it really counted.
“JT has been in this position numerous times, but today might have been some of the best tennis that he’s ever played.”
On the other side of the bracket, Park Tudor also advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 win over Jasper. The Panthers picked up wins from Aiden Harris (No. 3 singles), Anish Thyagarajan and Vijay Tewari (No 1. doubles) and Will Embhardt and Jack Enkema (No. 2 doubles).
Park Tudor will play Leo at 10 a.m., Saturday at Center Grove. Leo knocked off Perry Meridian 4-1 in quarterfinal action, led by a strong effort from Andrew Denning at No. 1 singles.