Noah Roberts has played competitive tennis at a high level for nearly a decade.
An accomplished player on the United States Tennis Association junior circuit, he played No. 1 singles throughout middle school and has been No. 1 at Franklin Community High School since his freshman season.
“I’ve been No. 1 singles since sixth grade,” said Roberts, a junior. “I’ve never not been No. 1.”
Yet for all his successes, at all levels, he has never advanced past the sectional round of the IHSAA state tournament.
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Roberts not only finally broke through what is a notoriously brutal local sectional, he’s making the most of the breakout. He is in contention for the state championship.
He is one of only eight players still in the chase and earned a spot in today’s quarterfinals of the Individual State Singles Finals at Park Tudor by virtue of winning last week’s Fishers Regional.
Roberts plays junior Eli Steiner of Leo in the quarterfinal. The winner advances to Saturday’s semifinals, one match from the title match.
“He’s playing with a little more determination the last couple weekends,” Franklin coach Rod Snyder said. “I would say he’s mentally strong and mentally prepared for the task at hand.
“He is very confident in handling his side of the net.”
Roberts’ confidence stems in no small measure from competing in one of the state’s renowned tennis hotbeds.
Center Grove has long been a state power. Greenwood has enjoyed success on the state finals stage, especially in singles. And Whiteland and Indian Creek traditionally boast winning programs.
Roberts not only emerged from a sectional field long dominated by Center Grove players, he hasn’t slowed down, picking up two impressive regional wins to reach the state finals.
He brings a 24-2 overall record and a wealth confidence.
“I’ve had some tough matches, and I think it’s prepared me,” said Roberts, a soft-spoken athlete with a powerful left-hand serve and a driving backhand swing. “These matches are going to be tough coming up. Its not going to be easy.
At the regional, Roberts swept both opponents in straight sets. He beat Brebeuf’s Shivam Bhargava 6-1, 6-1 in the semifinal and dispatched Fishers’ Jon Hornett 6-2, 6-1 in the title match.
As a result, Roberts enters the state finals on an emotional high but with a business-like approach.
“I feel actually very confident because I’ve had some great matches that I just played,” Roberts said. “The nerves are gone. I feel like all the nerves were on the earlier matches to get here.
“I’ve already done well, so I’ll try to make the most of it. I’m pretty confident about it.”
His coach shares his optimism.
“Looking at the tournament results of all the other seven players, Noah, if he plays well and plays within himself and handles the pressure well, he has just as good a chance as any of those other young men this year, absolutely,” Snyder said. “He is starting to peak at the right time.
“He’s starting to hit his serve better and control points a little bit better than he was earlier in the year. He attacks short balls really well, and he’s starting to hit his serve with much more patience and placement and winning some points off that right now.”
Although Roberts has never played his quarterfinals opponent in a high school match, he did compete against Steiner a year ago in a USTA event. Roberts remembers losing a close match but expects a different outcome this time.
But he takes no opponent for granted.
“Everyone I could play is at the top of the state. There won’t be an easy match from here on out,” Roberts said. “The strength of my game is taking the strength of another person’s game out of their game.”
Trojans duo bids for doubles title
In doubles, Center Grove seniors Ryan Stemle and Tye Thixton are still in contention for a state championship.Stemle and Thixton play Evansville Memorial seniors Chase Troop and Colin Troop at 10 a.m. today in a first-round match at Park Tudor. The winners advance to the 2 p.m. quarterfinals.Winners of the Fishers Regional, Stemle and Thixton are 15-8 overall and 3-0 in the postseason. The Troops are 21-1 overall and 5-0 in the tournament.
IHSAA BOYS TENNIS INDIVIDUAL STATE FINALS
Where: Park Tudor High School, 7200 N. College Ave., Indianapolis.
Quarterfinals: Today, 2 p.m.
Match 1: Steven Christie (12) North Central (17-1, 8-0) vs. Ian Landwehr (12) Yorktown (18-1, 5-0).
Match 2: Eric Hollingsworth (11) Richmond (21-0, 6-0) vs. Logan Charbonneau (11) New Albany (19-2, 7-0).
Match 3: Sam Concannon (12) Culver Academies (19-0, 6-0) vs. Bryce Bonin (11) Crown Point (14-1, 7-0).
Match 4: Eli Steiner (11) Leo (17-3, 7-0) vs. Noah Roberts (11) Franklin Community (19-2, 5-0).
Semifinals: 10 a.m. Saturday
Match 5: Match 1 winner vs. Match 2 winner.
Match 6: Match 3 winner vs. Match 4 winner
State Championship: 2 p.m., Saturday
Where: Park Tudor High School, 7200 N. College Avenue, Indianapolis.
First Round, Friday, 10 a.m. Chase Troop (12) and Colin Troop (12) Evansville Memorial (16-1, 5-0) vs. Ryan Stemle (12) and Tye Thixton (12) Center Grove (12-8, 3-0).
Quarterfinals: Friday, 2 p.m.
Match 2: JJ Kroot (12) and Jon Tuerk (12) North Central (Indianapolis) (14-1, 8-0) vs. Match 1 winner.
Match 3: Daniel Chua (12) and Chase Dinkel (12) Terre Haute South Vigo (4-9, 5-0) vs. Jory Shoup (12) and Zach Wisen (12) Bloomington North (19-1, 5-0).
Match 4: Matt Marcus (11) and Henry Wolf (11) Munster (16-3, 6-0) vs. Jimiroqua Stanchin (12) and Ryan Van Wyngarden (11) Carroll (Fort Wayne) (17-5, 7-0).
Match 5: Luke Rush (12) and Logan Troyer (11) Goshen (19-1, 6-0) vs. Thomas Gifford (12) and Tim Porsche (12) Penn (17-3, 7-0).
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.