Columbus North tennis doesn't give an inch, takes title from Bloomington South

2022-10-09 05:59:36 By : Ms. Yanqin Zeng

Both teams crowded around their respective sides of the fence and the lights came on, shining on the No. 2 doubles court in Wednesday’s regional final between ninth-ranked Bloomington South and fourth-ranked Columbus North.

The teams had split the first four matches of the evening, meaning the only remaining court in the regional would decide the champion.

After losing the first set 6-4, the Panthers’ duo of Josh Sang and David Ciucu tried to send the match into a third set to keep the team’s season alive. Ultimately, despite showing a lot of grit, Columbus North clinched the regional with a 6-4 second set.

“We’re just blown away at the amount of work and trust the players put in me and put in each other,” head coach Matt Corry said. “We emptied ourselves out today.”

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Columbus North’s other victories came in No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles. Hank Lin defeated Michael Asplund 6-3, 6-3, and the doubles team of Anvay Atram and Amrit Kar beat Luka Jovanovic and Evan Kantor, 6-2, 6-1.

It was the Bull Dogs’ second victory over South this season. They won 3-2 in the regular season, as well, with its wins coming in the same spots as Wednesday.

Sang and Ciucu were paired up in doubles for the first time just weeks ago, Corry said. With little time to become coordinated as partners, Corry said they’ve been extremely coachable and have taken steps forward throughout the end of the season. In the team’s sectional final against Bloomington North, it was that No. 2 doubles pairing that clinched the trophy.

“They did not bow down,” Corry said. “They trusted (each other) and they bult something on the fly quickly. They put us in some great spots to compete at the highest level.”

Bloomington North’s No. 1 doubles team of Casey McIntyre and Brady Murphy found themselves trailing 3-0 in the second set. They trailed 3-0 in the third set. They even trailed 3-0 in the third set tiebreaker.

Each time, McIntyre and Murphy battled back to gut out a 3-6, 7-6(5), 7-6(5) victory over Mayson Cutter and Noah Bagwell of Scottsburg.

“The more they got pushed, the more their heart responded,” North head coach Ken Hydinger said. “We were not doing anything. Everything we’ve worked on, nothing was coming up good.”

McIntyre and Murphy had to switch their strategy during the match. They began playing with both back at the baseline to sync their games up and get different shots. The many small adjustments they made were the difference, Hydinger said.

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They move on to play Seymour’s No. 1 doubles team of Jack VonDielingen and Joe Schmidt, who dispatched Greensburg’s No. 1 doubles team Wednesday night.

In singles, North’s Nick Shirley cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 win over Jennings County’s Owen Law.

“It’s nice to get it done,” Shirley said. “Every match, you have those nerves. Match point, once it’s over, it’s a good feeling every time.”

With his victory and Columbus North’s team win, Shirley claimed the individual singles sectional title.

Shirley said his serve and his forehand were working well, allowing him to dictate the points and avoid making errors.

“Boy, Nick is consistent,” Hydinger said. “What doesn’t work for him? Nick’s just solid, and he’s consistent day in and day out. He’s like a machine.”

In the final match of his freshman year, Alex Busch took care of business in a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Steven Sun at No. 3 singles.

Busch, who beat Sun in their regular season matchup, entered the match with a little extra confidence. Besides knowing his chances of victory, Busch’s maturation on the court throughout the season helped to reduce his nerves in the regional.

“I couldn’t have done this in the beginning of the season because I don’t think I would’ve had enough confidence,” Busch said.

Between playing No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles at the varsity level, Busch has gotten comfortable on the court. With both singles players above him graduating, it might place Busch in position to take over the top spot moving into next year.

“He humbly accepted whatever I threw at him,” Corry said. “By the end of the season he’d just completely bought in and had that trust.”

In his tennis career, Chris Lian is most proud of how he invested in his teammates. 

When asked about his team’s effort in the regional final, Lian went through each of his six teammates and talked about why he’s proud of them.

“I like to think I’m my team’s biggest fan,” Lian said. “I always give it all on my court. I think I’ve also matured as a tennis player, especially as a leader, as a teammate and as a friend.”

The senior’s career ended with a 6-2, 6-2 win over Austin Clark at No. 2 singles. He was the first match off the court.

After going down early, Lian flipped a switch, getting over his nerves and settling into a groove. He said he played his game and focused on what he could control by recognizing what allowed him to have success.

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Corry said the team’s seniors have been instrumental in the program’s growth over the past four years. While a lot will be lost as they move on, he said the way South cheered on their teammates is a testament to the seniors’ leadership.

“They were the leaders of the team as freshmen, especially Chris,” Corry said. “Like I told the team tonight, nobody is filling those shoes. There’s going to be a gap there.

“Tennis is a very vulnerable sport. As I look at my seniors and I hear what they told their teammates tonight, they bought in. That, as a coach, is the ultimate compliment you can get.”