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September 30, 2012

Terre Haute South secures boys tennis sectional title

TERRE HAUTE — If you can throw record books out the window when traditional athletic rivals get together, apparently you must also void previous encounters between the teams when Terre Haute North and Terre Haute South meet in boys high school tennis.

That was the case Saturday morning at South, where the host Braves survived a major scare from the Patriots before winning a sectional semifinal match 3-2 — the same score South had won by in the regular season, but in a lot of different ways.

South downed North Central in the championship match later Saturday. The Thunderbirds had advanced earlier in the day with a 4-1 win over West Vigo.

Since the Braves had edged the Patriots 18 days earlier, both teams had dealt with injury issues and South had shuffled its lineup. The only identical matchups came at the top two singles positions, and neither of them went the same way they had before either.

At No. 1 singles, North’s Tate Egan snapped a losing streak against South freshman Nathan Bogle, earning advancement individually as a result. At No. 2, South’s Krishan Kumar, the first-match hero by winning a long three-set match to snap the 2-2 tie, was the first winner off the court in the rematch with Ethan Caldwell.

“Nathan had a streak going [against Egan], but that’s hard to do against a good player like he is,” coach Bill Blankenbaker of the Braves said later. “Good luck to Tate the rest of the way.”

“I liked the way I played today better,” Kumar said. “Last time [against Caldwell] I was a little nervous; this time I played my game.”

If Kumar wasn’t as nervous Saturday, however, he may have been in a minority.

“We were pretty nervous the first set,” said South’s Reed Crawford, part of a winning team at No. 1 doubles.

Everyone was, Blankenbaker indicated, particularly after the Patriots won the first sets of three of the five matches and forced a third set with a second-set win at No. 3 singles.

“Anytime you play a North-South match, you’re always scared,” the coach said.

Crawford and Scott Kellar came back from their first-set loss to win the next two sets of their match — the one in which injuries had wiped out Alex Farmer of the Patriots and Josh Gayso of the Braves in the past two weeks — for the most important win of their six-match career as partners. And Alex Barksdale, only recently moved into South’s singles lineup, recovered from his mid-match slump against North’s Andrew Farmer.

“I was gettling a little nervous,” said Barksdale, South’s lone senior, “but in the third set I guess I just came through.”

“We got more confidence going into the second set,” said Kellar (all four South doubles players were in their first sectonal match, Blankenbaker pointed out). “We tried some things, and they started working.”

Those matches were the next two to end after Kumar’s, so South had the match in hand before Egan and the No. 2 doubles team of Keaton Akers and Justin Newton — who had to fend off an impressive comeback by South’s Trace Harruff and Luke Yeagley — won the points for the Patriots.

“We just didn’t execute enough at the end,” said North coach Bob Denny. “I’m proud of Tate [Egan] and I was real happy with Andrew Farmer … not having Alex Farmer at doubles hurt us a little; [South’s] lineup changes made a difference.”

“We made a lot of [lineup] moves,” Barksdale added. “The coaches did a good job finding combinations.”

“We had some plans, and they worked,” Blankenbaker said.

The championship match ended 5-0, the same score the Thunderbirds had when they played the Braves a year ago. But it was far from an unsuccessful year for North Central.

“Last year we won two games [against South] and this year we’re doing better than that,” coach John Caton said as the championship match wound down. “Terre Haute tennis has always been good, and that’s a credit to the tennis community up here.

“But North Central [which finished 14-2] is pretty doggone good for having an enrollment of about 300. I had five seniors this year [Brennan Crooks, Jacob Chmielewski, Chaz Childs, Nolan Kinnett and Chris Stamper] and they’ve been part of a lot of wins — probably 80 percent throughout their careers,” Caton was quick to add.

West Vigo doesn’t have a lot of seniors, so coach Doug Tilford of the Vikings was proud for a slightly different reason after his morning match against the Thunderbirds that wrapped up a 9-6 season.

“It was a real good year,” Tilford said. “We had a bunch of good guys, everyone is back [next season] but one [doubles player Chris Gardner] and we have some eighth graders coming up. Things are really looking up [for West Vigo tennis].”

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