Center Grove’s boys tennis team wasn’t going to astonish opponents with its won-loss record entering the postseason.
But it’s the regular-season schedule that is paying dividends now.
The state’s 21st-ranked squad shut out Roncalli 5-0 in Tuesday’s semifinal of the Center Grove Regional to earn a place in this afternoon’s championship match. The Trojans (12-10) face Shelbyville (14-7), which downed Southport in the other semifinal 3-2.
Story continues below gallery
“The schedule prepares us extremely well,” said Trey Thixton, the Trojans’ No. 1 player who scored a 6-1, 6-3 win against another southpaw, the Rebels’ Bryson Meek. “I think we played only three teams all year that weren’t ranked in the state.
“That’s a lot of tough competition that gets us ready for some pressure moments in some big matches. In makes you better in the end.”
Center Grove scored straight-set decisions in all five matches against the Rebels, who, like the Trojans, have only one senior in their lineup.
In No. 2 singles, junior Nic Ballesteros defeated Alexander Payne, 6-1, 6-2. Another Trojans’ junior, JT Embrey, lost the first game in each of the sets, but still finished off Austin Schofield, 6-1, 6-1.
Coach Ivan Smith’s top doubles lineup of Mitch Runkle and Eli Lawyer-Smith defeated Roncalli’s Jacob Perez and Tyler Pollard, 6-0, 6-1. The Trojans’ Grant Herron and Mason Runkle won, 6-2, 6-1, over the Rebels’ Garrett Meek and Tyler Schofield.
Only Bryson Meek is a senior for the Rebels, who finish with a 9-14 mark. Overall, a successful season for Roncalli, which made it this far by winning the ninth sectional in program history.
“I think it was unexpected that we would do this well. Our record really didn’t show it, but I think we played 10 of the top 30 teams in the state,” Rebels coach Mark Claeys said. “That’s pretty tough to do.
“We were solid. We got better as the season went on, and we got to come out here and compete against Center Grove. They’re a good program. I’m very familiar with them.”
A victory today would give Center Grove 27 boys tennis regional titles — fourth-most all-time in Indiana behind Munster, North Central and Homestead. It would be the Trojans’ first since 2014.
Shelbyville seeks its third regional championship overall and first since 2003.