Center Grove tennis falls in semistate

Even though Park Tudor had already clinched a semistate victory over Center Grove more than an hour earlier, Center Grove senior Ashlee Fisk and Park Tudor junior Lauren Long were still battling at No. 1 singles.

At the end of a three-hour match, Long outlasted Fisk 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 as the No. 3 Panthers defeated the eighth-ranked Trojans 4-1 Saturday in the semistate in cool, windy conditions at Center Grove High School. Park Tudor (17-2) advances to the state quarterfinals to play No. 1 Carmel.

The loss also eliminated Fisk from the singles portion of the state tournament.

“Ashlee played an amazing match,” said Trojans coach Debby Burton whose team finished 16-4. “She left everything she had on the court, which we ask them all to do.”

With Fisk serving with a 4-3 lead in the third set, Long managed to break Fisk in a long game to tie it, then won the final two games.

“Even when I was down in the last game, I knew in the back of my head, I was going to win the match,” said Long, who improved to 18-1. “(Fisk) played really well. It was a really good match. I just wanted it so bad and I was grinding for every point. It was a really good battle. It something I’m going to need for later. Ashlee is a really good friend, so it was nice to play her.”

Long was bothered by a cramp just above her knee, but didn’t want to take a medical timeout. Still, she needed the trainer after the match. Fisk lay on the court for several minutes after the match, emotionally and physically spent.

“(Long) is an unbelievable competitor, so when she’s down you don’t ever count her out,” said Park Tudor coach Andrea Calvert-Sanders, who was a state singles runner-up as a Greenwood junior in 1988. “Ashlee played great. They both got tired at the end. It was probably the hardest match they had all season for both of them.”

Park Tudor won 3-2 earlier in the season. Long had beaten Fisk in straight sets in that meeting.

“We changed our doubles midway through the season, and that helped us at No. 1 doubles,” Calvert-Sanders said.

The Trojans were seeking a fifth consecutive trip to the state quarterfinals.

“We knew going in that it as going to be a tall order to win that match,” Burton said. “We had game plans for No. 2 and 3 singles players who lost very quickly.”

Park Tudor’s Caitlin VanWinkle beat senior Sonya Vyas 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 singles and Caroline Kittle didn’t drop a game in beating Center Grove freshman Deepthi Shankar at No. 3 singles.

Even though those scores were one-sided, Burton said several games went to deuce.

‘I’m super proud of how they played,” she said. “They switched their doubles lineup up (from first meeting), but we played really great tennis. We asked (the players) to slow the pace of the matches down. We’re not going to out-power them at certain positions.They’re a great team. It’s just the way the draw went. We got Park Tudor.”

The Trojans’ No. 1 doubles of seniors Sapna Vyas and Sydney Plowman lost to Lauren Kittle and Caroline VanWinkle 6-4, 6-0.

Center Grove’s No. 2 doubles team of junior Hudson Gilstorf and freshman Lauren Dick concluded with a 22-2 record by beating Park Tudor’s Kate Fryburg and Emma Bols 6-2, 6-1.

“It’s hard to say goodbye to all of those players,” Burton said of her four senior starters. “The top of our JV, my six alternate players, had an incredible record this season. They’re coming in ready to play. They’re hungry for those positions.”