Coming into boys tennis sectionals on Wednesday, Sept. 28, the Eagles have had a busy schedule, facing five teams in the preceding week.
Some of the best performances they’ve had this season have been when they were most busy, though.
After a 3-2 loss to Triton Central Aug. 30, Brown County bounced back the next two days for a 3-2 win over Indian Creek and a 4-1 win over Owen Valley, both Western Indiana Conference East rivals.
“I think we have a good chance this year,” senior Cash Myers said of sectionals. “We’re a good team.
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“The Columbus schools are much bigger than us, and we’re always competitive, so, I think that shows a lot about us,” he said.
Junior Abe Oliver said that losses they’ve had this year have been against strong opponents who earned it.
“We had some losses that I think, looking back, we should have done a little bit better, but I think overall we’ve lost to some really great teams,” he said. “They were good matches that just happened to go their way.”
The Eagles followed their first two WIC East wins with a third, defeating Edgewood 3-2 Sept. 8, once again securing a shot at the WIC championship.
“We started the season knowing we were the champs, and we wanted to repeat, so we kind of geared towards those three matches plus Greencastle,” said Head Coach Kevin Roush.
But there was disappointment waiting around the corner.
Though Myers had a decisive win in No. 1 singles at the WIC championship, Greencastle took all the other matches, beating Brown County 4-1 on Sept. 10.
The loss was a flip from last year, when the boys took the championship 4-1 over Greencastle.
Last year, the two teams faced off at Brown County; this year they met at Greencastle. The two teams are closely matched enough, that advantage could have made the difference, Roush said.
“If we play them 10 times, it’s a 5-5 split,” he said.
“It’s just who can capitalize on the mistakes — or who makes the least mistakes.”
No. 1 doubles has been a learning experience, Oliver said. In the past, he was a “utility” player. He had some time playing doubles, but he didn’t have the experience building chemistry with a partner.
Chemistry and team strategy play a much bigger role in the No. 1 spot, he said. It’s not enough to know how to move. The partners need be able to move together, communicating with each other on the fly.
“That’s been a challenge, but I think it has really improved me as a player,” he said.
In the No. 2 doubles spot, the team’s lone freshman, Aaron McCann, has been getting up to speed with high school tennis.
“I feel like I’ve been improving a lot, especially with my ground strokes, and my serve,” McCann said. “I feel like I’ve just been being able to hit it harder and more consistent.”
Facing some challenging teams across the court has helped, McCann said. So has the support of the team.
“I think they’ve been a great group of kids to be around,” Roush said. The players have shown constant improvement, and even in their losses have played well.
Roush said he knows the realities the team is up against at sectionals.
Some opponents, such as Hauser, to which Eagles lost 3-2 early in the season, Roush thinks the Eagles would beat this time around.
Yet, he also knows The Eagles will face either Columbus East, which beat Brown County 5-0 early in the season, or Columbus North, which Roush thinks is possibly a little stronger than East.
However sectionals shake out, there is no doubt how Roush views his players.
“It’s a tough little group,” he said. “With nine, you don’t have a lot of options.
“I used to say we were one player away from probably being pretty good, but these guys stepped up their game, and we don’t need that one player.”
Seniors: Cole Smith, Cash Myers, Austin Roush, Jesse Williams
Juniors: Abe Oliver, Elijah Roush
Sophomores: Chase Watson, Nathaniel Fox
Freshman: Aaron McCann