Despite a wave of momentum heading in, the Center Grove girls tennis team didn’t have quite enough to carry it into the IHSAA State Finals.
Center Grove’s season ended Saturday with a 3-2 semistate loss against visiting Terre Haute South.
Ranked No. 12, the Trojans had won six straight matches but ran out of team against the former Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference rival Braves.
Terre Haute South won at No. 1 singles and swept both doubles positions.
“I believe it’s my job as a coach to help the team figure out there are disappointments in life. It’s what you do with those disappointments that make a difference,” said Center Grove coach Debby Burton, whose team was trying to get back to the state finals for the first time since 2010.
“I feel like we’ve put Center Grove tennis back on the map and people are paying attention to us,” Burton said. “In fact, some people were really shocked (we got this far).
“I told (the players), ‘Hang on to that feeling that it stinks to lose. Let’s figure out how to get better and how to not be in this situation next year.’”
With no seniors, the Trojans expect to return every starter next season.
On Saturday, Center Grove’s highlights were were at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, where sophomores Katelyn Gray and Maddie Weeks, respectively, made quick work of their opponents in straight sets.
Gray defeated senior Courtney Sheets, 6-2, 6-3, and Weeks beat freshman Hunter Duncan, 6-2, 6-2.
At No. 1 singles, Terre Haute junior Lauren Hambrock (22-1) defeated freshman Isabella Schoolcraft, 6-0, 6-2.
“I tried to play it pretty safe and reduce as many errors as possible,” said Hambrock, one of the state’s top singles players. “I know (Schoolcraft) is a great player, and she hits a lot of big shots, so I didn’t want to try and out-hit her.
“She’s going to learn a lot in the next few years and is going to be a really great player.”
Schoolcraft said this year’s experience will pay dividends in the future, for herself and her teammates.
“I’m glad I got to play someone like (Hambrock) at the end of the season because it was really competitive,” Schoolcraft said. “Being under pressure, we never saw this much pressure as a team, so I think we’ll be able to build on that next year.”
Burton has no complaints about Schoolcraft’s season-long performance at No. 1 singles.
“She’s just been remarkable,” Burton said. “She was in every game ,and it was a matter of one or two points. I told her, ‘I believe in you, you just have to believe in yourself.’ She plays a lot of tennis, but it’s a different atmosphere in the semistate at (No. 1) singles, and having come from a tennis family, she knows how big that is.
“I think this experience is something that will really help her. She’s a good leader. As she gets older, I think she’ll be more comfortable in leading the team vocally and taking people under her wing.”
At No. 1 doubles, Braves’ juniors Sofia Saylor and Pam Dorman (14-5) defeated junioor Madison Smeathers and freshman Cassidy Hardin, 6-3, 6-2.
At No. 2 doubles, Terre Haute South senior Shivani Purohit and freshman Erin Friedrich beat sophomores Bailey Sammons and Carleigh Hardin, 6-2, 7-6 (7-4).
“I’m really proud of this group because they didn’t give up,” Burton said. “They continued to fight for every single point and had good attitudes on the court. Tio me, that’s something that’s really important.
In the other semistate semifinal at Center Grove on Saturday, No. 7 Avon blanked Oldenburg Academy 5-0.