After 12 hours Saturday and 3 hours Tuesday night, the Panthers emerged with the TEC Tourney Championship. This victory caps off a great season of tennis, achieving every goal we set in August for the regular season; undefeated at 19-0, win the County, win the TEC regular season and win the TEC Tourney.
The tourney started Saturday morning at Winchester. Ethan Yoder was out with a sprained ankle so Freshman Connor Pyle got the Varsity start at #1 Doubles. He and Kyle Johnson were unseeded due to the substitution so they drew the play-in match against Winchester and quickly took care of business, advancing to the next round against #1 seed Hagerstown. In a Freshman versus experienced Seniors match up, the Panthers played well but dropped the court, 3-6, 0-6. Their Hagerstown opponent went on to win the #1 Doubles title.
AJ Dalton was the #1 seed, coming into the tourney undefeated at #1 Singles in Conference play. He dominated his first round match up Hagerstown 6-1, 6-0, then won a great battle against Northeastern, winning 6-4, 7-5 and securing his spot in the Championship round.
Garrett Dalton was also undefeated in Conference play and held the top seed at #2 Singles. He beat his first round opponent Hagerstown 6-2, 6-3, then quickly dispatched his Cambridge City Lincoln opponent 6-0, 6-1 to earn his spot in the Championship round.
Next up was Cooper Davis at #3 Singles. Cooper, the #3 seed in his bracket, beat his Winchester opponent 6-2, 6-2, advancing to the second round. Coop faced the eventual #3 Singles Champ Northeastern, losing 1-6, 3-6.
Alex Cook and Dylan Chandler were also the #3 seed in their respective bracket, #2 Doubles. They cruised to a victory in their first round over Winchester, winning 6-2, 6-1. Their second round match up, though, was a battle against Hagerstown; a team they had narrowly lost to in the regular season. Cook and Chandler lost one of the closest matches of the tourney, 6-7, 6-7 with consecutive set tie breaks.
Now Indiana fall weather came squarely into play. The Championship Round was scheduled for Monday, but was cancelled due to rain. A call to IHSAA reveals that all regular season play must be over by Wednesday, the 1st day of Sectionals. Rather than gamble on not finishing the tournament, the decision was made to move indoors to Indianapolis Racquet Club. 12 other Indiana Conferences were facing the same predictament, many of whom may not finish their season.
At this point, Centerville was leading the tourney after two rounds with Knightstown in second. To make matters worse, Centerville had three teams in the Championship Round to Knightstown’s two. The good news was that both matchups, AJ Dalton at #1 Singles and Garrett Dalton at #2 Singles, were both facing Centerville opponents. So the stage was set for a showdown; if Knightstown won both, we won the tourney. If we won one court or less, Centerville would take home the crown.
Like so many other times this season, the Panthers handled the pressure and took care of business. Garrett finished his opponent first, winning the #2 Singles title 6-2, 6-2. AJ got behind 2-5 in the first set, dug in, and won the next 5 games in a row to win the first set 7-5, then held to win the second set 6-4. The Panthers clinched the TEC Tourney Championship.
The ride home followed our ‘big win’ tradition of a stop at Little Caesar’s for pizza. What a great way to wrap up the regular season. Next up, the Panthers square off against the Shenandoah Raiders in the Sectionals Thursday at New Castle. The match starts at 4:30.