Center Grove girls tennis coach Debby Burton shook up her lineup April 20.
Two days earlier, the Trojans had lost to Franklin 5-0.
The No. 14 Trojans moved a step closer to a potential rematch with the No. 8 Grizzly Cubs by shutting out Whiteland, 5-0, on Wednesday in the opening round of the Center Grove Sectional.
First, Center Grove faces Indian Creek at 4:30 p.m. in today’s semifinal round; Greenwood and Franklin meet in the other semi. The winners meet Friday.
Burton said the Trojans have been playing well since the lineup change.
“We’ve had a lot of incredible practice matches,” Burton said. “We’re going to continue to compete every day and take it one match, one point at a time and see what happens. I think it’s a good lineup for us, knowing what our goal was to go as far as we can in the tournament. We’re working hard to do it.”
Sophomore Valeria Arriz moved from No. 2 to No. 1 singles, freshman Sloane Small moved from No. 3 to No. 2 and junior Emerson Donaldson moved into No. 3 spot. Junior Lauren Dick switched from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles.
Each of Center Grove’s top three singles players lost just one game. Arriz downed Ella Proctor 6-0, 6-1 at the No. 1 position and Donaldson won by the same score over Saphira Brown at No. 3. At No. 2 singles, Small topped Candace Stephenson 6-1, 6-0.
At No. 1 doubles, Dick and classmate Ava Beecher topped Cathy Nguyen and Kinsey Shipp 6-2, 6-3. At No. 2 doubles, juniors Anna Runkle and Peri Small won 6-3, 6-1 over Rowen Starns and Sara Ullrich.
“We expect Whiteland to come to Center Grove and compete every time,” Burton said. “They’re a well-coached team and they always compete. They play a different type of game than our last few matches. The girls were focused on creating our own intensity, really moving on our feet, taking care of the ball, working on some of the things we’ve been working on in practice and developing some confidence. We played well and our emotions were in a good place.”
Peri Small said she and Runkle have improved a great deal since the first meeting with Franklin.
“This is our first year playing together for the whole season, but we’re best friends off the court,” Peri said. “We’ve played together before, so we’ve already had chemistry together.”
A bonus this season for Peri has been watching her younger sister Sloane have success.
“I love having my sister on the team,” she said.
Donaldson was playing on the junior varsity before the lineup switch, but she had played No. 3 singles last season for the Trojans. Donaldson said strengthening the No. 1 doubles spot should give the Trojans a shot to win the sectional.
“We’re not worried about Friday just yet, but one of our main goals is win Friday,” Donaldson said.
The Warriors finished 12-9.
“What I’m looking for in my girls is to always be good people, to compete at whatever they’re doing and try to have some fun,” Whiteland coach Mike Gillespie said. “It’s not fun to lose, but you can still try to have some fun and appreciate the fact we’re playing on a beautiful day. At the end of the day, I’m proud of the girls.”
Proctor and Ullrich are the only Warrior seniors.
‘We bring several back, but so do most of the teams in the sectional that are pretty good,” Gillespie said. “I love coaching the girls. I’ll miss our seniors in the varsity lineup, and we have four others who will graduate as well.
After the match, the Center Grove team put on tie-dyed shirts that read “We love Coach Bill.” They then took some pictures to send to volunteer coach Bill Reinhard, who wasn’t able to be with the team this season because of health issues.
“He volunteered for middle school teams and high school teams,” Burton said. “He wasn’t able to be with us this year and we just wanted to send him some love. He loves hearing about how the girls are doing.”