Trojans advance to state in girls tennis

Tournament host Center Grove defeated Park Tudor 4-1 in Saturday’s semistate championship match.

With the victory, the No. 10 Trojans advance to the quarterfinals of the state finals. They will host South Bend St. Joseph (17-2) on Friday.

The semifinals and championship round are Saturday at North Central.

Winners of 11 straight, Center Grove (17-3) got out to a fast start, securing the victory with wins at No. 2 singles and Nos. 1 and 2 doubles.

Junior Maddie Weeks, who recently moved up one position to No. 2 singles, was off the court in less than 60 minutes.

Weeks breezed by Park Tudor senior Annie McCarter, 6-1, 6-0.

At No. 1 doubles, Center Grove junior Bailey Sammons and sophomore Cassidy Hardin made quick work of juniors Noelle Enkema and Elizabeth Niculescu with a  6-2, 6-2 win.

And at No. 2 doubles, senior Madison Smeathers and junior Carleigh Hardin survived against seniors Lauren Challand and Danielle Lebovits,  6-1, 7-6 (7-3).

Center Grove coach Debby Burton applauded the work of Weeks and the doubles teams for securing the match early on.

“It was a long day and a great battle. We had beaten them early in the season 5-0, but they had only played two dual matches coming in,” Burton said. “We continue to talk about staying focused and need to play our game and, wow, two singles and one doubles took care of business quickly and put us in good shape and then two doubles got a little tight in that second set but they finished so strong.

“They’ve been practicing really hard and doing very well, took care of the angles, getting the ball out of court without getting flustered.”

Smeathers, who prides herself on net play, credits partner Carleigh Hardin for her consistent baseline work

“The key for us all year is all about staying positive through the ups and downs and having confidence,” Smeathers said.

A year ago, Center Grove lost to Terre Haute South 3-2 in the semistate.

Carleigh Hardin said the team was determined not to let that happen again against Park Tudor.

“Practice like you play and play like you practice. We’re so glad we finally got over the hump,” she said.

Gaining confidence at the No. 3 singles position is freshman Ellie Strube, who defeated Park Tudor freshman Emily Sun 6-3, 2-6, 7-6 (7-5).

“I’m really proud of everyone making adjustments and doing what they need to do at new positions,” Burton said. “When we put that challenge before the tournament began, they’ve done a great job and are banking a lot of experience with a wide variety of lineups.”

In the No. 1 singles match, which lasted a little more than three hours, Park Tudor senior Abby Sogard pulled out a 4-6, 7-5, 6-2 victory against Trojans sophomore Isabella Schoolcraft.

“On any given day,” Burton on Schoolcraft’s loss. “She was playing a senior and there’s a lot on the line there, but she battled hard and never gave up.”

Also in semistate play, Terre Haute South (22-0) defeated Oldenburg Academy (15-3) 5-0.