Heading into his junior season, Franklin No. 1 singles player Noah Roberts hadn’t gained much postseason experience in his high school career.
Both his freshman and sophomore seasons, the Grizzly Cubs drew state tennis power Center Grove in the first round of the sectional. That put Roberts up against Center Grove’s Conner Anderson, a first-team all-state selection both years.
Roberts lost both of those matches, but with Anderson since graduated, the Franklin player felt his time had come. And he was right.
Roberts (24-2) will face Leo’s Eli Steiner (24-3) at 2 p.m. Friday at Park Tudor on the first day of the individual state tennis meet. Getting out of the sectional was a goal all season, but getting to state started creeping into the back of Roberts’ mind once his initial goal was reached.
“I think getting past the sectional was awesome,” Roberts said. “But once I got past that, it was like ‘Why not keep going?’ So I’ve worked really hard to build off of that success.”
Roberts hasn’t dropped a set in the postseason. “I feel like this stretch is the best tennis I’ve played in 2015, and maybe even in my life,” he said. “I’ve beaten people I’ve lost to in the past. At this point, anything can happen.”
North Central’s Steven Christie (25-1) also comes into the individual state meet on a roll, not having dropped a match – or a set – since a loss in the John Shirley Invitational Aug. 29. He was dominant at the state meet last week, dropping just 15 total games in three sets.
“Steven has always had very strong natural ability to hit the ball hard and understand the court very well,” said North Central coach Daniel Brunette. “His skill level is incredible. This year it’s been about honing the mental aspects of the game. And I think we’ve seen the results of that throughout the (state) tournament. It’s been about him staying focused.”
Christie drew Yorktown senior Ian Landwehr (23-1), who has advanced to the state semifinals all three previous years. Landwehr also has the unofficial state record for career wins (105).
Center Grove’s doubles team of Ryan Stemle and Tye Thixton (14-8) will face Evansville Memorial’s Chase Throop and Colin Throop (21-1) at 10 a.m. Friday.
“We’ve faced a lot of good teams, and we’re going to face another good one (Friday),” Center Grove coach Ivan Smith said. “But we’ve had a lot of close matches with those teams this year.”
North Central’s JJ Kroot and Jon Tuerk (22-1) await the winner of the Center Grove-Evansville Memorial match. The North Central pair avenged their only loss of the season when they downed Carmel’s No. 1 doubles team in three sets during the team state quarterfinals.
Brunette said the toughest obstacle this week has been getting his players refocused after winning its third straight team title last Saturday. “We’ve got to be in the right place mentally after that high of winning last weekend,” Brunette said. “But I also think that they played their best tennis of the year (last weekend): beating Carmel, beating a good Jeffersonville team Saturday and then stepping up and beating Park Tudor. Jon stepped up and played his best match of the season against Park Tudor, and JJ is one of the best singles players in the state. He’s proven that throughout his career.
“We feel good, but we also know it’s not going to be a walk in the park.”
Where: Park Tudor School, 7200 N. College Ave.
When: Friday, 2 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m., 2 p.m.
Admission: $5 per person.
• Quarterfinals, Friday 2 p.m.
Match 1: Steven Christie, North Central (25-1) vs. Ian Landwehr, Yorktown (23-1).
Match 2: Eric Hollingsworth, Richmond (27-0) vs. Logan Charbonneau, New Albany (26-2).
Match 3: Sam Concannon, Culver Academies (25-0) vs. Bryce Bonin, Crown Point (24-1).
Match 4: Eli Steiner (11) Leo (24-3) vs. Noah Roberts, Franklin (24-2).
• Semifinals, Saturday, 10 a.m.
Match 5: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner.
Match 6: Match 3 winner vs. Match 4 winner
State Championship, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Match 7: Match 5 winner vs. Match 6 winner.
• First Round, Friday, 10 a.m.
Match 1: Chase Throop and Colin Throop, Evansville Memorial (21-1) vs. Ryan Stemle and Tye Thixton, Center Grove (15-8).
• Quarterfinals, Friday, 2 p.m.
Match 2: JJ Kroot and Jon Tuerk, North Central (22-1) vs. Match 1 winner.
Match 3: Daniel Chua and Chase Dinkel, Terre Haute South (9-9) vs. Jory Shoup and Zach Wisen, Bloomington North (24-1).
Match 4: Matt Marcus and Henry Wolf, Munster (19-3) vs. Jimiroqua Stanchin and Ryan Van Wyngarden Carroll, (24-5).
Match 5: Luke Rush and Logan Troyer, Goshen (25-1) vs. Thomas Gifford and Tim Porsche, Penn (24-3).
• Semifinals, Saturday, 10 a.m.
Match 6: Match 2 winner vs. Match 3 winner.
Match 7: Match 4 winner vs. Match 5 winner.
• State Championship, Saturday, 2 p.m.
Match 8: Match 6 winner vs. Match 7 winner.