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Center Grove wins county tennis title

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One year was enough sharing for the Center Grove girls tennis team.

The Trojans knocked off defending tournament champion Greenwood, 4-1, on Saturday at Whiteland to reclaim the Johnson County championship.

Center Grove had won nine consecutive county tournaments before falling to Franklin in the semifinals a year ago.

The Trojans and Woodmen split the top two singles matches with Center Grove senior Grace Neathery earning the first point at No. 2 singles, beating freshman Abby Chatham, 6-1, 6-0. Jackie Kawamoto countered for Greenwood with a 6-2, 6-1 win over Emily Jones in No. 1 singles.


It was all Trojans after that.

Kaitlyn Walsh and Hollis VanFossen won the No. 2 doubles match, 6-1, 6-2, over Claire Gallman and Morgan Stunick. Then junior Jillian Fledderman clinched the championship for Center Grove, winning No. 3 singles over Makenzie Estrem, 6-2, 6-1.

The only drama of the final came in the No. 1 doubles match.

Greenwood seniors Taylor Hudnell and Brittany Toney won the first set, 6-3. But their opponents, seniors Abby Long and Kimber Marsh, raced to a 4-1 lead in the second set before the Woodmen duo righted themselves.

Hudnell and Toney charged back and had match point at 6-5, but were not able to convert. Long and Marsh forced a tie breaker, which they won 7-4, and then closed out the match by winning the super-tiebreaker, 10-8.

Center Grove entered the tournament with a modest 2-3 record, the product of a typically brutal early season schedule. Coach Debbie Burton said while the Trojans wanted to reclaim their perch at the top of the county, they were more interested in simply getting better.

“They wanted the title back,” Burton said. “But our focus is what can we use our season for to improve for the end of the year. What can we take from every match and what can we learn from that.

“When we’ve played North Central and Carmel and Bloomington South, we’ve played well and we were in our games. We’ve really spent a lot of time focusing on how it’s not just about our record.”

The Woodmen got bad news just before the final began when they lost No. 2 singles player Jade Kawamoto. The junior, who played her first match of the season Friday, reinjured her foot in Saturday’s semifinal and was unable to compete in the final.

Coach Steve Gantz said her replacement, Chatham, gave a fine effort despite the last-minute switch.

“She’s played some varsity matches, but that was a tough spot for her,” he said. “We wanted to see what she could do, but Neathery is a really strong player.

“We knew it would be a tremendous battle whether we had Jade or not. We had to play well, and we did play well. But Center Grove is a strong team, and it was their day.”

Center Grove (4-3) advanced to the final with a 5-0 win over Franklin, which entered the contest with a 5-0 record. Greenwood (5-4) blanked Whiteland, 5-0, in its semifinal. Franklin (6-1) topped Whiteland, (2-5) 4-1, in the consolation match.

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