North Central boys tennis coach Daniel Brunette tried a few different No. 1 doubles team combinations before pairing up seniors J.J. Kroot and Jon Tuerk. But once those two got on the court together, the trial-and-error period was over.
The North Central pair downed Carroll’s Jimiroqua Stanchin and Ryan Van Wyngarden 6-3, 6-3 Saturday afternoon at Five Seasons Racquet Club to win the doubles state title. It capped a 25-1 season for the two players, who knew immediately they had the right pairing.
“We played two matches with different lineups and then we tried me and Tuerk at No. 1 doubles,” Kroot said. “From the first match, it was something special. Two left-handed players – no one likes to play against that. We just kept getting better and better, and our chemistry got better as well.”
Kroot and Tuerk didn’t drop a set in their three state matches. Against Carroll they broke in the seventh and ninth games to take the first set and then won the final three games of the second set. Kroot clinched the match with a service winner.
“I thought it was very possible (to win the title),” Tuerk said. “We just had to put our mind to it and just work hard.”
North Central senior Steven Christie saw his run at a singles state title end at Four Seasons with a 7-6 (7-1), 6-2 loss to Culver Academies’ Sam Concannon in the finals. It was a match not without controversy.
Christie (27-2) had just broken Concannon for a 4-3 lead in the first set and was celebrating winning a point on his serve when he was warned for inciting the crowd by Head Referee Lynda Hinshaw, a USTA official. That set off a heated discussion that involved North Central’s coaches, Christie, and IHSAA and match officials.
Christie left the court for a few minutes and then came back and held serve. Serving for the match two games later, he was broken by Concannon. The pair then exchanged service breaks to force a tiebreaker.
A visibly frustrated Christie fell behind 6-0 in the tiebreaker and then had his serve broken three times in falling behind 5-1 in the second set.
“They started making up this new rule,” Christie said of the warning. “It’s tough to bounce back once you get focused on something else. (Before the warning) I felt like I was playing really well. He was playing really well. But things got involved that weren’t tennis, and I thought it definitely changed the match.”
IHSAA Assistant Commissioner Chris Kaufman said while there is no issue with players and fans getting excited or celebrating, “What we don’t want to do is incite the crowd in a way that’s gamesmanship, if you will, instead of sportsmanship. Is it a point of emphasis for us? Yes.”
Kaufman said the rule has been in place; Brunette said the Panthers were informed of it for the first time Friday but added that the incident shouldn’t have figured into the outcome of the match.
“It comes down to having to still play tennis,” Brunette said. “It’s being able to keep your head. Steven lost his cool for a period of a couple games. That can equal a tiebreak. That can equal a set, too. (But) he had a good year. He was the No. 1 singles player on the state championship team. You don’t want to discredit that.”
Concannon, the 2014 singles state runner-up, finished 28-0. “I worked hard all year to get back here, and I can’t think of a better way to go out my senior year,” he said.
In the semifinals – which were played at Park Tudor before rain moved the tournament indoors – Christie fell behind Richmond’s Eric Hollingsworth 4-2 in the first set but rolled from there, winning 10 of the final 12 games to knock off Hollingsworth 6-4, 6-2. The Richmond junior had entered the semifinals 28-0.
Kroot and Tuerk also had to rally after falling behind Bloomington North’s Jory Shoup and Zach Wisen 3-0 in the first set. The Panther pair stormed back to win 7-5 and then controlled matters from there, taking the second set 6-2.
At Park Tudor
Steven Christie (North Central) def. Eric Hollingsworth (Richmond), 6-4, 6-2; Sam Concannon (Culver Academies) def. Eli Steiner (Leo) 7-6 (9-7), 6-3.
Concannon def. Christie, 7-6 (7-1), 6-2.
J.J. Kroot/Jon Tuerk (North Central) def. Jory Shoup/Zach Wisen (Bloomington North), 7-5, 6-2; Jimiroqua Stanchin/Ryan Van Wyngarden (Carroll) def. Luke Rush/Logan Troyer (Goshen), 6-4, 6-4.
Kroot/Tuerk def. Stanchin/Wyngarden, 6-3, 6-3.