The Carmel High School boys tennis team is seeking its third consecutive state title when the state quarterfinals begin today. The semifinals begin at 10 a.m. Saturday at North Central with the championship slated for 2 p.m. (See Page C9 for the full schedule.) Here are the story lines to follow:
1. Top-ranked Carmel is 18-1 but isn’t as dominant as in the past two seasons.
“That will take some pressure off this team because there is really no talk of us being the best team in high school history,” Carmel coach Mike Bostic said. “We’re just going to go out and enjoy the weekend and give it our best. We’ve got kids that have experience from last year and some kids that have grown up in the last two months. We feel good about our chances.”
Last season, Carmel was unbeaten in 18 matches and dropped just three points, two in a 3-2 victory over Park Tudor in the state semifinals.
Carmel’s only loss this season was 3-2 to North Central on Aug. 30. The Greyhounds also finished second to North Central in the John Shirley Invitational on Aug. 25. After North Central’s No. 2 singles player Andrew Stutz was sidelined for the season with a leg injury, Carmel won the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference tournament on Sept. 15. The Greyhounds will play No. 7 Center Grove in today’s 3 p.m. quarterfinals at Carmel.
“We’ve had some ups and downs this year and I think that has toughened our players,” Bostic said.
2. North Central has the toughest path to the state title among the main contenders.
The No. 4 Panthers (19-1) open the quarterfinals with No. 3 Fort Wayne Canterbury (21-0) at Lawrence Central. If the Panthers survive, they would likely play No. 2 Park Tudor (17-2) in the semifinals. Park Tudor opens against No. 8 Jasper.
North Central lost to Park Tudor 3-2 on Sept. 11 after Stutz was injured. North Central regrouped and beat Park Tudor 4-1 in the Marion County championship Sept. 24, but the final rankings were already out.
“We have a few pieces of motivation: one, us being lower in the rankings,” North Central coach Dan Brunette said. “Two, the loss of Stutz, and three, the fact that we have what I would contend is the hardest draw in order to win this thing. So we’re pretty hungry. We’re pretty relaxed. We’re on fall break now, so that gives us a chance to sleep and rest our bodies.”
3. Can Center Grove compete with Carmel?
The Greyhounds won the first meeting 4-1 on Sept. 22, with the Trojans’ point coming at No. 1 doubles. Luke Andersen, the Trojans’ No. 1 singles player, was playing doubles in the teams’ last meeting. Andersen, a senior who has a 9-1 mark at No. 1 singles, was still recuperating from a foot injury at that time. Andersen’s younger brother Conner, a sophomore, was forced to move up to No. 1 singles but has since returned to No. 2.
“Luke is moving better each day. Whether he is on top of his game (today) remains to be seen,” Trojans coach Ivan Smith said. “(The Greyhounds) are the favorites, but I think there are places where we can compete well against them.”