Behind solid performances throughout the lineup, host Center Grove defeated Whiteland 5-0 in Thursday’s quarterfinal round of a girls tennis sectional.
With the win, the Trojans will face Franklin (11-6) in today’s 4:30 semifinals. Defending champion and seventh-ranked Greenwood (13-2) takes on Indian Creek in the other 4:30 semifinal. The championship match is at 9 a.m. Saturday.
The Trojans (6-13), winners of 25 sectional championships, have had a challenging season against Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference opponents and a host of state-ranked teams.
But they opened the postseason on an impressive note.
At No. 1 singles, senior Jillian Fledderman wasted little time in retiring her opponent Madison Scott in straight sets, 6-1, 6-0, in a match that took only 45 minutes.
At No. 3 singles, freshman Katelyn Gray, who started playing tennis in the sixth grade, displayed excellent footwork and a strong forehand in turning back senior Laiken Gossett, 6-1, 6-2.
“I’ve been putting in a lot time in practice and after practice,” Gray said. “Plus, I’m taking some private lessons. I just try to get myself better by exercising, eating right and going to sleep earlier.”
Fledderman, who has moved up the singles ladder each season since she was a freshman, fills the role as the Trojans’ primary leader along with three other seniors, Kaitlyn Walsh, Kim Spindler and Priya Dave.
Fledderman noted the coaching of veteran Debby Burton always reminds everyone that playing a tough schedule leads to good things, especially when the state tournament rolls around.
“She always says that with the schedule we play, we play hard people to get better,” Fleddermann said. “It really pushes us to get better. It’s a very busy time of the year especially since I’m a senior, but we’ve managed to stay focused on our game.
“We have a great program, and with the young people we have now and those coming in, the future looks very bright.”
The Trojans’ No. 2 doubles team of sophomore Madison Smeathers and senior Kim Spindler secured the team-winning third point by defeating Whiteland senior Navdeep Kaur and junior Alexis Corda 6-1, 6-2.
Center Grove’s combo at No. 1 doubles, Walsh and freshman Bailey Sammons, got by Warriors senior Catherine Morgan and freshman Paitlyn Gossett 7-5, 6-3.
And at No. 2 singles, senior Priya Dave rallied from a slow start to defeat Whiteland senior Emily Zietlow 7-5, 6-0.