You can’t talk about boys tennis in Indiana without mentioning North Central first.
The Panthers have earned that type of respect. North Central is in the midst of another historic run, having won three straight state titles under coach Dan Brunette.
But this kind of success isn’t new to the program, which has won 20 state titles, including four or more state crowns in a row on three separate occasions.
The Panthers will be looking for another fourpeat in October. But North Central will need to infuse several new players into a lineup that features just three returners.
“Obviously, our goal is to compete for a state championships,” Brunette said. “Replacing the guys we lost is tough. We had a lot of depth the past couple years. We’ll likely have four juniors starting and a freshman, Ian Brady, playing No. 1 singles.”
Brady isn’t your typical freshman, though. He’s ranked as one of the top players in the country in his age group.
Brady’s brother, junior T.J., was a starter at No. 3 singles last year. The Panthers also return doubles players, junior Jon Tuerk, who won a state title at doubles last season, and senior Cole Bosler.
“You get the sense it’s a rebuilding year; it’s nice that guys who have been waiting to play get the chance,” Brunette said. “They have good attitudes and are ready to replace (past players).”
Here are three teams that could dethrone North Central:
• Carmel: Like North Central, Carmel is traditionally good. The Greyhounds won three straight state titles from 2010 to 2012. They lost to the Panthers in the state finals two years ago and the state quarterfinals last season. Carmel returns just four players and two starters from a year ago, but should again be a challenger for a state title. Returning players include No. 1 singles player, junior Patrick Fletchall, and junior No. 3 singles player, Drew Michael. “We are very lofty in our goals,” coach Spencer Fields said. “Our main goal is to have fun and improve and then see how far we can go with our goals.”
• Guerin Catholic: Typically in the state rankings, Guerin Catholic appears poised to have its best season yet. The Golden Eagles return six of seven starters from last year, including all three of their singles players. Junior Wyatt Metzger, an all-state selection last season, junior Jake Bratten and sophomore Michael Wade are the top singles players, respectively. They combined for a 45-14 record a year ago. “Let’s say we believe we can compete with anyone in the state,” assistant coach Joe Lustig said. “Our schedule features all of the top programs in the greater Indianapolis area.”
• Park Tudor: Park Tudor should again be a threat to win a state title. The Panthers finished runner-up to North Central two of the past three years. Park Tudor returns five starters from last year, including senior Vijay Tewari, sophomore Aidan Harris and junior Drew Weigel. Harris will play No. 1 singles, while Tewari and Weigel will battle for the other two singles spots. “We lost in the last match last year,” coach Kevin Gillis said. “(A state title) is definitely what we’re looking for this year. There are a handful of teams I know of that can compete for it. We are definitely looking for a championship.”
• Other teams: Hamilton Southeastern should also be a legitimate threat to the other top teams in the area. The Royals have won five sectional titles in a row. Brebeuf Jesuit should also field a formidable team. Center Grove will also look to get back on track after its 26-year sectional title streak came to an end last season. Avon, which won the school’s first two sectional titles in 2014 and 2015, will have to overcome some key losses.