Park Tudor ended Center Grove’s impressive run through the IHSAA boys tennis tournament with a 5-0 sweep in the semistate round at Center Grove on Saturday.
The No. 21 Trojans, who entered the tournament with just nine wins on the season, survived a tough sectional round then rolled through the regional earlier this week with two lopsided wins. But Center Grove couldn’t get past mighty Park Tudor, who won four of the five matches in straight sets to claim its 14th semistate crown and seventh in a row.
“They deserve their top-five ranking,” Center Grove coach Ivan Smith said of the No. 5 Panthers. “We competed really well in a couple of spots and I thought the other ones played well. (Park Tudor) had to earn it.”
The best match of the day came after the team match had already been decided. Playing for his tournament life, Center Grove’s Trey Thixton battled Park Tudor’s Aiden Harris for three sets before losing steam and falling 7-5, 5-7, 6-1 at No. 1 singles.
The Trojans were unable to win another set, but each of the other four matches were hard-fought.
Nic Ballesteros was able to stay close to Park Tudor’s Karchi Ertl at No. 2 singles before losing 6-4, 6-4. J.T. Embrey lost to Alex Kim 6-2, 6-1 at No. 3 singles.
In doubles action, Mitch Runkle and Eli Lawyer-Smith lost 6-3, 6-0 to Will Emhardt and Drew Wiegel at No. 1, their first loss of the tournament. Grant Herron and Mason Runkle fell 6-3, 6-1 to Brett Liebross and Eli Anderson at No. 2.
Park Tudor will take on fourth-ranked Homestead in a state quarterfinal at Carmel on Friday.
While it was a disappointing end to the season, Center Grove graduates only one senior, Lawyer-Smith, and should be in a good position to return to the semistate next year.
“Eli is somebody who is kind of a self-made player. I don’t think he’s ever had a tennis lesson. He’s always played baseball,” Smith said. “I’ve probably never had anybody who has worked as hard during the season as he has.”
“We have a lot of guys back and hopefully we can go even further,” Smith added. “It’s a good feeling (having everybody back), but they’re going to have to do what it takes. I’ve told them a million times that of you want to get to the next level, you have to work harder than you did to get to the level you’re at. We’ll see if they do that.”