Boys tennis: Carmel wins state title, ending North Central's 3-year reign

Nishanth Basavareddy returns the ball during the High School Boys Tennis State Finals, geld at North Central High School, Saturday October 15th, 2016.

Nishanth Basavareddy returns the ball during the High School Boys Tennis State Finals, geld at North Central High School, Saturday October 15th, 2016.

Spencer Fields is a winner.

As a player, he won a boys tennis team title with North Central in 1992. He coached the Panthers from 1999-2008 and led them to a pair of team titles (2000 and 2007) and three individual titles. He coached Park Tudor from 2009-2014 and coached the Panthers to two more individual titles. He took over at Carmel in 2015, and on Saturday he added another championship as his Greyhounds dethroned three-time defending champion North Central 4-1.

The recent run of tennis dominance in Central Indiana? Fields has his fingerprints all over it. He mentored current North Central coach Dan Brunette, who found himself with a runner-up trophy for the first time since 2012.

“Someone will win and someone will lose, but overall the legacy of these two programs is so deep with tradition that we love doing it for the people that have come before us, too,” Fields said.

No. 1 Carmel finished its season undefeated (17-0). The Greyhounds capped it with a 5-0 win over Bloomington North in the semifinals prior to knocking off the Panthers later in the afternoon, though the match was closer than the score indicates. Three matches (No. 1 singles, No. 1 doubles and No. 2 doubles) went to three sets.

“They dug in in a way that was much different,” Fields said of his team. “We have a strong sense of self-belief in what we’re doing. We understand how to win better than ever. We always have the determination to put what we can do on the court.”

Patrick Fletchall clinched the win for the Greyhounds with a 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) win at No. 1 singles over Ian Brady. Fletchall hasn’t dropped a match all season.

“I knew how much we wanted this one, not just for me but for the team,” Fletchall said. “It was important to zone in and get it done today.”

Carmel had beaten North Central during the regular season, which Fletchall said gave his team an extra confidence boost — and rattled the Panthers.

“We were ready to get this one,” he said. “It kind of got them emotionally unstable and they were kind of out of it, I feel like. It definitely took a toll on them.”

North Central’s Brian McAuley picked up a win at No. 3 singles, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4 over Nishanth Basavareddy, but it wasn’t enough. The Panthers played a three-hour, 15-minute match with Park Tudor in the morning session, earning a 3-2 semifinals win.

“I think Carmel played with a little more intensity in the third sets, especially in doubles,” Brunette said. “They executed better than us. I think we were a little flat-footed and were making mistakes we hadn’t been making up to this point.”

The Panthers finished the season at 16-4.

“Our guys played pretty well,” Brunette said. “We lost three three-set matches. What can you say? It’s pretty close.”

Carmel’s Drew Michael defeated T.J. Brady 6-2, 6-2 in No. 2 singles. Ethan McAndrews and Jay Natarajan defeated Edward Prein and Jonathan Tuerk 6-7 (8-6), 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles. Timmy Dixon and Rohit Nagaraj defeated Griffin Beck and Nathan Branaman 4-6, 6-4, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.

Fields called the seemingly annual tournament matchups between North Central and Carmel “a fall tradition.” Now, it will be his team feeling the heat to defend a title next season.

“I’m sure that North Central has (a chip on its shoulder) right now, and we’re going to have to defend it next year pretty hard,” he said. “That’s what these two programs do. There’s a lot of chips on the shoulders that go around.”