GREENWOOD – The magical run for the Zionsville boys tennis team came to an end Friday afternoon at the IHSAA State Finals at Center Grove.
The 12th-ranked Eagles fell in the state quarterfinals to No. 5 North Central, and ended their season with an 18-4 record.
“I couldn’t be prouder of these guys,” Zionsville head coach Earl Allen said. “We knew we were coming into a really tough match. All of the guys performed super well, and we did everything we could on the court. Our doubles teams did their thing and our singles guys played their hearts out. We just didn’t come out on the winning end of it.”
The Panthers, who have been either state champion or state runner-up seven of the past eight seasons, swept the three singles spots to advance.
At No. 1 singles, Ian Brady topped Cole Chappell 6-1, 6-3. At No. 2 singles, Ajay Mahenthiran topped Nick Bailey 6-3, 6-4 and at No. 3 singles, Maurquis Willingham topped Austin Kuklak 6-3, 6-3.
It was the final match at Zionsville for Bailey, but for the other two, this experience is something they can build on, Allen said.
“Moving into the off-season, it shows our guys that we can compete at the next level,” Allen said. “This is the highest level. Making the final 8 in the state hasn’t really happened for this program in several years. It’s a definite confidence builder.”
The Zionsville No. 1 doubles team of Robert Campbell and Ryan Carr stayed alive in the state doubles tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 win over Max Simmel and Richard Smikle.
They advance to the state doubles tournament next weekend at Park Tudor.
They will open up with Castle’s Kunhai Shah and Ethan White in the quarterfinals at 2 p.m. Friday.
“They showed a lot of grit,” Allen said. “The North Central team definitely brought something different to the table this time and they had to adjust. But I never doubt those guys, they always find a way to perform.”
Campbell and Carr found themselves down 4-1 in the second set, rallied back to take a 5-4 lead, then saw the Panther fight back to force a tiebreak.
The Zionsville duo got up early in the tiebreak and never looked back.
“We just told them they had to hit more shots down the line and get to the net,” Allen said. “They needed to be more aggressive, and they did.”
The No. 2 doubles team of Ethan Perry and Nick Winters topped Carter Bailey and Daniel Ceglio 6-3, 7-6.
Allen gave a lot of credit to Perry and Winters, who were trailing in the second set when North Central got their clinching point, but dug deep to secure the final point of the season for the team.
“We have preached all year about how every match is important,” Allen said. “They could tell that the team match was over, but they wanted to win their court and that’s what we have done all year.”
Allen, who was named the District Coach of the Year earlier this week, said he will have found memories of this team.
They accomplished a lot, winning the HCC for the first time in a decade and won the regional and semi-state for the first time since 2009.
“This has been a special run,” Allen said. “These guys have been awesome. They have been great sportsmen, and I have been truly privileged to coach such exceptional players on the court, and the way they are outside of the court.”