For the Daily Journal
With a regional final bid already wrapped up, the only uncertainty that remained Tuesday during Center Grove’s girls tennis semifinal match against Southport was if the third-ranked and host Trojans could sweep the Cardinals.
Senior Katelyn Gray dropped the first set of her No. 1 singles match to Camille Khelseau 3-6 but rallied to take the final two sets and the match 6-1, 6-3, ensuring Center Grove of a 5-0 victory.
The win catapulted the Trojans (18-2) into today’s regional championship match against Roncalli. The Rebels (17-4) advanced by sweeping Triton Central 5-0.
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Gray’s power game contrasted sharply with Khelseau’s ball placement strategy. Gray hadn’t played against Khelseau previously, although she said she knew Khelseau from offseason club competition, so she made the necessary adjustments and finished off the Southport sophomore.
“I focused more and tried to hit more deep balls against her,” Gray said of her in-game adjustments. “I had to be more patient.”
While Gray was fending off Khelseau, her teammates had little trouble dispatching of their competition. Center Grove lost only two games in the other four matches combined.
Trojan sophomore Jillian Garrett shut out Megan Sullivan at No. 3 singles, while Center Grove’s No. 1 doubles team of Isabella Schoolcraft and Cassidy Harding was also a 6-0, 6-0 winner.
Meanwhile, Emily Hoy collected a 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 2 singles and Carleigh Hardin and Ellie Strube also won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
“We’re utilizing our strategies well, and we’re working on the things that we’re emphasizing in practice,” Trojans coach Debby Burton said. “We’re trying not to get ahead of ourselves, because anything can happen, but we’ve also played a tough schedule that has made us ready to compete.”
The Trojans are aiming for their third straight regional title and the 19th in school history.
Center Grove’s regional final opponent had an equally easy time advancing Tuesday. Roncalli’s singles players, freshmen Emma Hess and Megan Zakrowski and senior Kathleen Ditton, each cruised in straight sets. Grace Mappes and Abigail Yohler claimed a 7-5, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles, while Lauren Liberto and Allison Lewis took their No. 2 doubles match, 6-1, 6-0.
Whiteland’s Reese Johnson and Greenwood’s doubles team of Molly Jacobs and Alyssa Roscoe also advanced in the individual sectional competitions, which also took place Tuesday at Center Grove.
Johnson came from behind to defeat Morristown’s Alayna Munson, 3-6, 6-3, 6-4. The earliest she will play again is Thursday, but whose team is eliminated.
Jacobs and Roscoe defeated Franklin Central’s Emily Tedder and Elise Paz, 6-1, 6-1, and will face Shelbyville’s Alivia Chenoweth and Sam Watson at 4:30 p.m. today at Center Grove.