Strong singles play leads Cats into final fourJune 2, 2018
By JONATHAN SAXON
CARMEL — The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step, and for the Jasper girls tennis team their final steps en route to a fourth straight state championship appearance took them through Carmel High School on Friday afternoon.
It was there that the Wildcats (18-4) rode to victory behind the performances of their top three singles players and advanced to the semifinal round of the state finals with a 3-2 victory over the Delta Eagles (18-4). Senior and number one singles player Sarah Monesmith defeated junior Ellie Snider 6-0, 6-2. Sophomore Suchi Badaru defeated senior Emma Snider 6-2, 6-2, and freshman Josie Yarbrough defeated Delta frosh Tynan Dishman 6-1, 6-0.
Jasper coach Scott Yarbrough had all the confidence in the world in his girls and said that the matches played out the way he thought they would across the five tennis courts on Friday. And even though the doubles teams lost, he thought that both teams played well and aggressive tennis — he said he knew the doubles matches were going to be close battles. Olivia Yarbrough and Caroline Theil fell to Grace Bellangee and Lexi Manor 7-6 (10-8), 6-3. Maggie Getzin and Aubrey Williams also lost to Kortney Helm and Mayzie Hinkle 7-5, 3-6, and 2-6.
“It’s nice to win and it kind of takes the air out of the bubble a little bit,” he said. “We will enjoy this evening and enjoy being in the final four. It’s been awhile since both the boys and girls (teams) went to the final four in the same school year.”
The team felt a bit nervous and anxious about the historic nature of their fourth straight state finals appearance, but once the first serve went up they just tried to focus on playing their games and not beating themselves through mental errors or abandoning the principles that saw the team to a 17-4 record going into the state quarterfinal round.
“We just try to go in there and be focused, no matter what match we’re playing,” said Monesmith. “We try to stay focused and get after it like every match.”
“We know how hard we worked this season and we had the potential to come out and win,” added Olivia Yarbrough. “There was a pretty good balance between being nervous and staying confident throughout the entire (match).
Yarbrough said the one of the majors keys he tried to coach in his girls coming into the match against Delta was playing patient tennis. Yarbrough said the coaching for the Eagles had a solid track record and that the Delta girls would play solid, fundamental tennis. Yarbrough wanted the Wildcats to not overreach or get caught up in trying to overpower their opponents. Instead, he wanted the team to aim big and miss small.
“Big target, small miss,” he said. “That was our focus early in the singles matches. We got serves and returns in and we got into their weakness like I thought we would.”
But Saturday’s matchups will be a new day and challenge. Yarbrough said the Wildcats will be facing the cream of the crop at North Central High School, and the next step will see them face Indianapolis Cathedral (17-1). But, the plan is to maintain confidence and play a bit more loose and aggressive to see if they can get up early on match points and put pressure on the Fighting Irish.
“Their one singles and doubles are very good players,” he said. “That’s probably their two best points, but they follow that up with three more good spots. We’ll have our hands full. It’s going to be a battle.”
But from the sound of it, it seems the girls are up to the task of swinging the rackets and letting the chips (or in this case the tennis balls) fall where they may.
“We’re going to approach it the exact same way with focus,” said Monesmith. “We know we’re going to have our hands full, but it’s going to be a fun match.”
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