Center Grove reclaimed its status as the class of the boys tennis sectional after a three-year absence with a 4-1 win against Whiteland in the championship match at home Thursday.
The Trojans (11-10) will face Roncalli in a regional semifinal at home next Tuesday. The Rebels knocked off Franklin Central 4-1 on Thursday.
After two years of rebuilding, Center Grove signaled that it was back with its 30th sectional title.
“The last two years we won nine matches total and none were in the sectional,” longtime Center Grove coach Ivan Smith said. “That was one of our goals, to turn it around. We’ve made progress. Eli (Lawyer-Smith) is our only senior. Hopefully we’ve learned a lot this season.”
Story continues below gallery
Like its win against Greenwood in the semifinals Wednesday, Center Grove saw its last two matches on the day go to a third set. But this time, the team match already was over.
The Trojans picked up wins at No. 2 doubles, No. 1 singles and No. 3 singles in succession to lock up the title.
Grant Herron and Mason Runkle defeated Whiteland’s Lane Stephenson and Travis Robinson 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles to start off the Center Grove run, and Trey Thixton followed with a hard-fought 7-5, 6-2 win against Quinten Gillespie at No. 1 singles. J.T. Embrey then clinched the team win for the Trojans with a 6-2, 6-4 win against Corey Ullrich at No. 3 singles.
The match at No. 1 singles was a battle, as Thixton needed everything he could muster to knock off the talented Whiteland freshman.
“I was trying to figure out where we could get three points from, so it was huge when Trey came off first with that win,” Smith said. “Quinten is a good player, and he’s going to be an even better player down the road. I thought that was the key.”
Whiteland picked up its lone win at No. 2 singles when Caleb Scott outlasted Center Grove’s Nic Ballesteros 6-3, 5-7, 6-2. The Trojans’ Mitch Runkle and Lawyer-Smith then closed out the match with 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 win over Whiteland’s Mason Laugle and Garrison Pelfree.