Host and third-ranked Center Grove goes after its third straight sectional title 28th overall when it meets county rival Franklin today.
The Trojans (16-2) eased past Indian Creek 5-0 on Thursday to reach the championship round, while the Grizzly Cubs (13-5) defeated Whiteland 4-1 in the other semifinal match.
The Cubs are still a very young squad, with only one senior in its starting lineup, doubles player Katie Purk. But the team has been gaining confidence each time out.
In its win against Whiteland, which closes the season with a record of 7-9, Franklin had to work overtime in a match that lasted nearly three hours.
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The Cubs’ No. 1 doubles team of Purk and sophomore Daryn Hyneman got things moving in the right direction with a straight-sets win against juniors Hannah Blum and Riley Burnside 6-3, 6-1. And at No. 2 doubles, Franklin freshmen Allison Bennett combined with Rachel Pinnick to get by sophomore Bri Harwell and freshman Sophie Venter 6-4, 7-5.
In singles play, Whiteland sophomore Reese Johnson battled her way to a 7-6 (7-5), 1-6, 7-6 (11-9) win against Franklin freshman Lexi Wilkison.
Franklin junior Abi Smith defeated junior Haley Darling in another split-set encounter 6-0, 3-6, 6-1.
The longest match of the night came at No. 3 singles, where Cubs sophomore Kate Heuchan willed her way past senior Avneet Badwal 6-7 (4-7), 7-6 (8-6) and 10-8 in a super tiebreaker.
For Whiteland, coach Mike Gillespie says goodbye to Badwal and fellow senior Mikayla Sell.
“Two awesome people,” he said. “On the court, in the classroom; their leadership skills; their smiles are contagious. I’m really going to miss them.”
Meanwhile, the Trojans, with only two setbacks this season against No. 1 Carmel and No. 2 Cathedral, needed only 50 minutes to dispose of an inexperienced Indiana Creek team.
On the plus side, the Braves lose just two seniors from their starting lineup — Sarah Knight and McKayla Russell.
“I couldn’t have had better senior leadership,” Braves co-coach Ryan Posey said. “They stepped up and played against some of the best competition all season.”
Center Grove’s singles winners were seniors Katelyn Gray and Maddie Weeks and junior Emily Hoy, all in straight sets.
And in doubles, the Trojan combos of senior Cassidy Hardin and junior Isabella Schoolcraft at No. 1 and juniors Carleigh Hardin and Ellie Strube at No. 2 pulled earned straight-set wins.
For Franklin, getting to the championship round against heavily favored Center Grove is no easy challenge; the Trojans won a Johnson County Tournament meeting between the two schools, 5-0.
But, as Grizzly Cubs coach Rusty Hughes always says, “We’ll be there.”