Though her teammates had already wrapped up Saturday’s semistate match against Oldenburg Academy, senior Katelyn Gray wasn’t ready to start celebrating.

“I still wanted to do my best to try to win,” she said, “because I wanted us to win 5-0 still.”

Gray rallied after falling behind in both sets, winning the final three games of the match to post a 6-4, 7-5 victory at No. 1 singles and cap off a perfect afternoon for the Trojans (20-2).

Center Grove, ranked third in Indiana, travels to Carmel on Friday for a state quarterfinal matchup with No. 4 Providence. It’s the second straight state trip for the Trojans, who suffered a 3-2 defeat to South Bend St. Joseph in last year’s quarters.

“It feels great knowing that we’re going back to state, so we can get redemption, to see how far we can go,” said senior Maddie Weeks, a 6-3, 6-0 winner at No. 3 singles.

Trojans head coach Debby Burton said she anticipated that the singles matches were going to be tough, so she hoped that her doubles teams would be able to take care of business quickly and put some pressure on Oldenburg.

Her wishes were heard. Carleigh Hardin and Ellie Strube knocked out a quick 6-1, 6-0 victory in the second doubles spot, and Isabella Schoolcraft and Cassidy Hardin followed moments later with a 6-1, 6-1 triumph at No. 1.

Each of Center Grove’s three singles players fell behind by a game early in their opening sets, but all three responded. Weeks seized momentum midway through the first set and carried it the rest of the way, dominating the second to pick up the clinching point. Junior Emily Hoy polished off her match in similar fashion, overpowering Margeret Glaser for a 6-3, 6-1 win.

Once those two matches were in the books, all eyes were on Gray, who gutted her way out of a 5-4 deficit in the second set against Angela Wanstrath.

“It was a little stressful,” Gray said, “but I got through it. I just made sure to have high margins over the net and stay consistent.”

Burton was pleased to see all three singles players overcome a little bit of early adversity on Saturday, knowing that there will likely be even challenges ahead later this week.

“At this level, it’s not going to be cruising easy, so you have to be willing to play through the ups and downs,” she said.

The next of those challenges will be the unbeaten Pioneers, who advanced to the round of eight by defeating Columbus North, 3-2, on Saturday in Jasper.

A victory would put the Trojans into the semifinal round for the first time since 2010. Center Grove has never reached the championship match — but this year’s team is hoping to change that.

“We want to go to the very end,” Weeks said, “but we’ll just see. One game at a time.”

Author photo
Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.