Carmel boys tennis edges North Central, earns fifth-straight state championship

Carmel boys tennis edges North Central, earns fifth-straight state championship

Akeem Glaspie
| Indianapolis Star


Carmel No. 2 singles Eli Mercer on clinching a 3-2 win for a fifth straight state title

Carmel No. 2 singles Eli Mercer on clinching a 3-2 win for a fifth straight state title.

Carmel and North Central’s boys tennis groups did not know if they might have an opportunity to fulfill once more for a state title this fall. 

Navigating a season throughout a pandemic was uncharted territory, and  the quantity of sacrifice and willpower on either side to get to that time Saturday equipped further gratification to an already emotional rivalry. 

At Carmel, gamers weren’t allowed locker room entry. Staff dinners and sleepovers have been executed away with. 

Greyhounds coach Bryan Hanan advised his gamers in the event that they’re prepared to sacrifice for six weeks they’re going to have a very good likelihood to win the state title. And all through all of the uncertainty and confusion, the Greyhounds earned the precise to battle the Panthers in one other traditional title match. 

The deciding level got here right down to the No. 2 singles match in opposition to Carmel’s Eli Mercer and North Central’s Alex Antonopoulos Antonopoulos rallied to drive a 3rd set after dropping the primary set 6-3. 

With all eyes on courtroom No. 8, Mercer capitalized on unforced errors, profitable the third set 6-3 and clinching a 3-2 total victory for Carmel. 

The win provides Carmel its fifth straight state championship and third in a row over North Central. The win is this system’s thirteenth all-time, second solely to North Central (20). The 5 consecutive titles matches the 1982-8 6 Carmel run for longest streak in IHSAA historical past. 

“Going via this summer time, I did not even know if we have been going to have a season,” Mercer mentioned. “So simply the truth that we may have a season and will play is wonderful. To win state for the fifth time in a row is even higher.”

Mercer entered the state event with a 24-0 report. The junior remained assured in his means even after dropping the second set, resulting in a do-or-die third. 

He mentioned tennis gamers stay for the chance to clinch the match, as the group hangs on each level, erupting after every profitable forehand or gasping when a shot lands simply out. 

After the match whereas posing with the state championship trophy, Mercer urged a brand new nickname for himself — “Mr. Clutch.” Hanan smiled and shook his head, “possibly subsequent yr,” he mentioned.

Intelligent moniker or not, Hanan mentioned Mercer was the right man for the second.

“He is a high-character child,” Hanan mentioned. “He does not know what the phrase give up means. I usually do not have to fret about being round his courtroom a lot, he’ll play as much as his means. As we speak, he performed a bit bit down, however he is a very good participant and he discovered how you can overcome it.”

For North Central, shedding to Carmel for the third yr in a row stings, however coach Dan Brunette mentioned reaching the state title was a victory of its personal.

The Panthers dealt with a delayed begin due to the pandemic and entered the season with a heavy coronary heart as a result of the dying of longtime AD Paul Loggan after his battle with COVID-19. 

“Simply to have the ability to get to this setting with what’s occurred over the past seven months, it’s a huge deal,” Brunette mentioned. “Rather a lot goes into that. Thanks to our athletic division, the great mother and father we have now and the assist system that made this attainable.”

Carmel jumped forward shortly as Srisanth Malpeddi and Jones McNamar  defeated Seraj Hamid and Caden Lesnick at No. 1 doubles 6-1, 6-0. 

The Greyhounds earned one other level after Ethan Eckhart and Corbin King defeated Jackson Hahn and Andrew Haggstrom at No. 2 doubles 6-2, 6-1. 

 Maurquis Willingham earned North Central’s first level of the match, defeating Jack Jentz 6-2, 6-4, setting the stage for 2 emotional matches at No. 1 and a pair of singles. 

At No. 1 singles, longtime buddies North Central’s Ajay Mahenthiran and Carmel’s Broc Fletcher locked in a back-and-forth affair. Mahenthiran jumped forward early, however Fletcher’s means to retrieve all the pieces his counterpart threw at him led to lengthy volleys and dramatic winners. 

Mahenthiran used his highly effective forehand to drag out a 6-4, 7-5 win for North Central. The senior’s willingness to step into the No. 1 singles spot vacated by program stalwart Ian Brady highlights his poise and psychological toughness. Opposing coaches seen his psychological fortitude as properly, awarding him the Psychological Angle Award after the match. 

“It was actually particular to me, particularly because the years that I’ve been right here, we have by no means been in a position to get a win at (No. 1 singles),”  Mahenthiran mentioned. “I do know our No. 1 gamers have all the time fought exhausting, however I believe it actually means one thing that I used to be in a position to get the win. 

“Clearly we wished the state title and that did not go our method, however with the way in which we fought, we must always actually be happy with ourselves.”

 Observe IndyStar sports activities producer Akeem Glaspie on Twitter at @THEAkeemGlaspie.

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