Despite the loss of both its coach and top player, Carmel’s girls tennis team could find itself back where it has ended each of the past three seasons: celebrating a state title.
Mike Bostic, who led the Greyhounds to state titles from 2013-15, stepped down last spring to spend more time with his family. Taking over for Bostic is longtime local coach Spencer Fields, who led North Central’s boys teams to state titles in 2000 and ’07, and coached Park Tudor’s boys to a state runner-up finish in ’13.
Also gone from the Greyhounds is Kiersten Carlson, who went 24-3 while finishing second in the singles state tournament as a freshman last season. Fields said Carlson is being home-schooled this year.
But Carmel returns five other starters and will be the favorite entering the season. But the Greyhounds likely will get stiff challenges from their Central Indiana neighbors. North Central and Cathedral, who reside in the same sectional, return several key players and could square off against the Greyhounds in the state meet quarterfinals.
Here are five things to watch during the girls tennis season:
• Carmel eyeing four-peat. The Greyhounds return singles players Zoe Woods (20-2) and Samantha Galloway (13-1), the state-champion doubles team of Emma Love and Lauryn Padgett (20-0), and doubles player Mary Voigt. If Carmel wins the state title, it would be just the third team to take home four straight titles. “I think there is certainly pressure because many of the other schools are very good and would like to beat us and keep us from winning four in a row,” Fields said. “(But) I think we have more pressure to improve and play well if we want to defend our streak. Hopefully we are deep enough and enjoy being around each other so much that we won’t let the streak end. Carmel has such a different athletic vibe right now than any of the other schools I have coached for, and it makes it really fun to coach.”
• Cathedral is still loaded. The Irish went 21-2 last season, with both losses coming to Carmel: 3-2 in the regular season and 4-1 in the team state semifinals. Back for the Irish are No. 1 singles player Maeve Koscielski (24-3), No. 2 singles player Grace Koscielski (25-2) and Meghan Farrell, who was part of a No. 1 doubles team that went 23-2. Freshman Claire Koscielski is expected to contribute immediately. “This team is right there in the mix of top three teams in the state,” coach Mark Noe said. “We will be working hard on reaching that goal (of competing for a state title) one match at a time.”
• So is North Central. The Panthers were 17-2 last season, falling to Carmel in the regular season and then dropping a 3-2 decision to Cathedral in the sectional opener. Returning from that team are University of Nebraska recruit Claire Reifeis, Butler recruit Caroline McAuley, Sydney Roach, Autumn Clark and Susan Biederstedt. “We except to improve throughout the season and make a run at the sectional finals, which hopefully results in a run in the state tournament,” coach Dan Brunette said.
• Claire Reifeis is focused. Reifeis went 24-1 last season. The loss: a 6-4, 4-6, 7-5 nail-biter to Carlson in the quarterfinals of the singles state meet. “I’m really motivated by (the loss) because it was a really close match, and I had a chance to win it,” Reifeis said. “She just played better than me. I’ve worked a lot to improve and also not get so tight. I was really nervous in that match.” Though winning a singles state title is on Reifeis’ mind, it’s not her highest priority. “There are a lot of good players out there,” she said. “It would be awesome to win individual state, but I am more focused on trying to help us win team state.”
• Avon looking to continue success. The Orioles advanced to the state meet for the first time in program history last year. Both doubles teams graduated, taking with them a combined 36 wins in 2015, but the Orioles return their top three singles players: No. 1 Teodora Simion (17-8 and second team all-state), No. 2 Sam Selge (11-8) and No. 3 Kaylin Venezia (19-3). Also back is Grace Langford, who has missed the past two seasons with a hip injury but was a first team all-state selection as a freshman, going 17-2 at No. 1 singles. “The program has made great strides in the last few years, and we hope to continue that trend,” coach Robert Mize said. “We have some match-play experience to catch up on, but we don’t feel like the level of play will drop off much, if at all.”