GREENWOOD — Though his team’s initial appearance in the IHSSA tennis state finals didn’t go as he and the large contingent of Hatchet tennis fans who made the trek north had hoped, Washington tennis coach Brian Hancock was nonetheless proud of his young squad’s effort as Center Grove eliminated Washington 5-0 in a quarterfinal match on Friday.
“When you get to the top eight, it's one of those teams, it's truly an honor to be at this level of play. The level of play definitely picked up; they have a lot of USTA players that play year round tennis, and it shows,” said Hancock. “We’ve had a lot of stuff going on this week, media and different things. It is a shock to be in this position, but it’s exciting. We are young, we’ve got everybody back.
“You’ve got to take advantage of this opportunity, and I think we have,” said Hancock, whose squad finished the season with a 20-2 mark. “To win regional, to win semistate, and to be at this level, to win so many close matches, I’m really proud of the girls and proud of the season.”
Center Grove (15-6) which entered the match ranked 11th in the state and counted among its six defeats losses to top-ranked Indianapolis Cathedral and No. 2 Park Tudor, claimed all five matches in straight sets. At No. 1 singles, Ali Barber fell to the Trojans’ Ellie Strube 6-0, 6-0. At No. 2 singles, Washington freshman Alaina Thorne suffered the first defeat of a spectacular campaign with a 6-1, 6-1 defeat at the hands of Ashlee Fisk as Thorne finished the season with a 23-1 record. No. 3 singles was claimed by Center Grove’s Jillian Garrett, 6-0, 6-1, over Kencia Levesseur, just Levessuer’s third loss versus 17 wins for the freshman.
“I thought Kencia’s match was a lot of fun; the fans were right on top of her court,” said Hancock. “To see her battle each and every point ... the only thing that happened with her was the second serve. Their girl took a little bit of advantage, but other than that they had a lot of baseline rallies.
“Alaina’s had 23 wins in a row, but she got caught today by a good player, I think the UTR (Universal Tennis Rating) of the girl (Fisk) she was playing was at a college level,” said Hancock. “We knew what we were up against. And the same thing with Ali, she’s been big for us all year, she’s been going against Division I and Division II type players at that level — you know you’re in for a battle.”
At No. 1 doubles, Washington’s Bella Thorne and Kenli Barber fell to Holyn Auckerman and Jenna Boha 6-2, 6-1. No. 2 doubles likewise went to the Center Grove duo of Abby Hoard and Sydney Plowman 6-0, 6-2.
“I was also impressed with both of our doubles team. I thought we got some looks at the net, and that’s what we try to push for is to get our girls up,” said Hancock. “That’s what we look for in practice. Even though you can’t see it in the score.”
Hancock also noted the quality of the tennis program at Central Grove, as evidenced by the many championship banners which adorned the first class tennis facility at the schools’ sprawling suburban Indianapolis campus.
“Give credit to Center Grove, you can look at all the different banners that they have,” said Hancock. “They’ve been here before.”
Perhaps the best aspect to emerge for the Hatchet program from the historic season and first state finals trip is what Hancock’s team — which returns its entire starting lineup next season — has gained in experience competing at the states highest level.
“This is an eye-opening experience. This is something that we can take back to Washington. We can work, we can work on the footwork, we can hit more strokes,” said Hancock. “I’m so excited. It’s just great to be here, I’m all smiles.”
At No. 1 doubles, Thorne and Barber finished with an 11-11 record, while Quincee Healy and Sophia Davis finished with a 19-5 mark at No. 2 doubles for the Hatchets. Barber’s final record at No. 1 singles was 8-16.