Postmatch interviews don’t often begin with a coach and a reporter ready to blurt out the same word, but that was the case for Bill Blankenbaker and his interviewer Saturday morning after the Center Grove Semistate for girls high school tennis.
Unfortunately for Blankenbaker’s Terre Haute South team, that word was “buzzsaw.”
Greenwood’s Kawamoto twins made quick work of the top of the Braves’ singles lineup, so despite stellar efforts by both South doubles teams the Woodmen’s 3-2 victory didn’t seem all that close.
Greenwood moves on to Fishers, where it plays Floyd Central or Jasper on Friday in the state quarterfinals.
Also playing Friday, but at Park Tudor, will be South’s Miranda Camp and Nicole Howe, who reached the individual doubles finals for the second straight season by virtue of their 6-4, 6-2 win over the Greenwood team of Taylor Hudnall and Brittany Toney.
“It’s really exciting,” said Howe of the prospect of a second straight finals trip, “but I wish our team could’ve gone with us.”
Jade Kawamoto, however, finished off Jordan Davis without losing a game at No. 2 singles in 42 minutes Saturday. And at No. 1 singles South’s Lauren Hambrock, who proved to be the Wabash Valley’s best player in her freshman season, won some beautiful points against Jackie Kawamoto — and still lost 0 and 0 in 64 minutes.
Neither twin has lost this season.
“She didn’t miss hardly anything,” Hambrock said of Jackie Kawamoto, believed to be a national 16-and-under qualifier last season. “I know what I need to work on now … she’s a junior, so I’ll get to play her against next year, hopefully.”
“We ran into a buzzsaw,” Blankenbaker said. “[The Kawamotos] are very, very good players, and at No. 3 [singles] Kyla [Jarvis] played a very good match [and lost 6-2, 6-0].
“I thought our girls fought hard and did all they could do,” the coach continued. “Our doubles played better than they have all year … these girls had to do a good job to get to the semistate.”
Even as singles matches were getting away from the Braves, their doubles teams were taking charge. Camp and Howe were behind early but won four straight games for a 5-2 lead in the first set that set the tone for the rest of the way, and the No. 2 team of Shivani Purohit and Courtney Sheets led from start to finish in a 6-2, 6-0 decision.
The win by Purohit and Sheets was finalized in time to cut Greenwood’s team lead to 2-1, but Greenwood’s Makenzie Estrem finished her match against Jarvis that clinched the team victory seconds later.
“I think we came in pretty confident and played really well,” Purohit said afterward. “[Greenwood’s] singles were just really good. We’re disappointed, but we’re glad 1 doubles can keep going.”
“I’m going to play in college [at the University of Southern Indiana], so it means a lot to me to be able to move on,” said Camp, the only senior in South’s lineup on Saturday. “Nicole has helped a lot; I couldn’t have asked for a better partner.”
Howe played singles for awhile early in the season, but Blankenbaker reunited the two in time for them to make another postseason run.
“Another trip for them, fantastic,” he said. “I’m glad I did the lineup this way. We’re still not done, and that’s good.”
“It’ll be good competition [on Friday], that’s for sure,” added Howe, recalling the Carmel duo that she and Camp faced immediately in last year’s individual finals. “Today we put our volleys away pretty well, and being consistent was huge.”
“We scored with some volleys, like Nicole said, and I had a really good serving day,” Camp added.
With all but Camp returning from Saturday’s lineup, and with freshman Sofia Saylor having extensive varsity experience this season as well, the Braves can look confidently toward next spring.
“We have a pretty young team, and I think everybody played well today,” Hambrock said.
Greenwood 3, Terre Haute South 2
Singles — Jackie Kawamoto (G) def. Lauren Hambrock 6-0, 6-0; Jade Kawamoto (G) def. Jordan Davis 6-0, 6-0; Makenzie Estrem (G) def. Kyla Jarvis 6-2, 6-0.
Doubles — Miranda Camp-Nicole Howe (THS) def. Taylor Hudnall-Brittany Toney 6-4, 6-2; Shivani Purohit-Courtney Sheets (THS) def. Claire Gallman-Morgan Stunick 6-2, 6-0.
Next — Greenwood (17-5) plays either Floyd Central or Jasper on Friday at Fishers in the state team quarterfinals. South finished 12-6, but Camp and Howe play Friday at Park Tudor in individual doubles competition.