Wake-up call

When the 2015 girls tennis season began, Aubrey Smith was relegated to playing No. 2 singles for Columbus North.

That came as a surprise to many, considering Smith spent her entire freshman season in the No. 1 singles spot. But after junior Paige Litrell beat her in a pair of challenge matches Littrell began the season in the top spot.

“I fully expected (Smith) to be No. 1, but coming in with the wind and the cold and everything, she went out there and Paige got her a couple of times,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “I think it sort of woke her up a little bit. She, as well as myself, probably assumed she would be coming in No. 1.”

After going 3-0 at No. 2 singles, Smith moved to No. 1 singles and was there to stay. The sophomore went 16-8 in the top spot and is this year’s The Republic Girls Tennis Player of the Year.

“After that first weekend, I actually flip-flopped them around because of who we were playing against,” Hammel said. “Then the next week, we had another challenge match, and Aubrey beat (Littrell), so that’s how we kept it. After that little wakeup call, she did just fine.”

Smith played some of the top players in the state. Three of her eight losses came against state singles champion Denise Azcui of Bloomington South.

“I thought Aubrey had a nice season,” Hammel said. “I thought as the year progressed, she got stronger and stronger. I thought she played some of her best tennis down the stretch against the some of the top competition she played.

“Our level of competition is very strong,” he said. “We play a lot of teams in the top 10 and the top 20. She’s playing a lot of the best players, seniors and juniors.”

Azcui’s third and final win against Smith this season came in the regional final, where the host Panthers downed the Bull Dogs 4-1.

“I wish to have done better,” Smith said. “I’m hoping to improve next year and get past regional. Also, I’m hoping our team can get that push to go past regional. I have to keep practicing to get better and hopefully push myself to state.”

Smith’s efforts this season earned her All-District honors. She also was named her team’s MVP for the second consecutive year.

“She’s very feisty, and she’s a great team player, but she’s also a very good individual player for herself,” Hammel said. “She works at it, and we love having her as a leader.

“I think she’s going to get stronger and better,” he said. “She has the desire, and she has the bloodlines. I think there’s a lot more that she can do yet down the road.”

North’s season was highlighted by Conference Indiana and sectional championships.

“We had a good season this year,” Smith said. “I’m sad how it ended. Bloomington South was at state, which is kind of upsetting since we beat them earlier in the year. Terre Haute South was there, too, and we beat them. We had some good matches during the year.”

Smith will lead four returning starters for the Bull Dogs next season.

“I know we lost three seniors, but we’ll still have Paige, Madelyn (Sanders) and Yijaing (Zhao),” Smith said. “I know Bloomington South will lose Denise, so that’s one spot we can maybe get. Hopefully, everybody can practice and get better and improve to where we can at least get to semistate.”

At a glance

The Republic All-Area Girls Tennis team:

Aubrey Smith, Columbus North: The sophomore went 16-8 at No. 1 singles and 3-0 at No. 2 singles.

Paige Littrell, Columbus North: The junior went 2-1 at No. 1 singles and 19-5 at No. 2 singles.

Rosemary Yonushonis, Columbus North: The senior went 17-2 at No. 3 singles and 6-2 at No. 2 doubles.

Meagan Olibo, Columbus North: The senior went 18-9 at No. 1 doubles.

Madelyn Sanders, Columbus North: The senior went 17-8 at No. 1 doubles.

Megan Galle, Columbus East: The senior went 8-1 at No. 1 singles.

Karen Dringenburg, Seymour: The senior went 27-3 at No. 1 doubles and reached the state doubles semifinals.

Emma Wood, Seymour: The junior went 13-1 at No. 1 doubles and reached the state doubles semifinals.

Julia Adam, Seymour: The exchange student from Germany went 18-6 at No. 1 singles.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Sarah Kurdziel, Mary Kate McCann, Hallee Miller. Columbus East: Alaysha Pollert, Adycin Rager. Columbus North: Brooke Richardson, Yijaing Zhao. Edinburgh: Vanessa Hoskins, Allie Schooler, Ashlyn Streeval. Hauser: Claire Lutsch. Jennings County: Amy Gasper, Elaine Lykins. Seymour: Hallie Crenshaw, Lindsey Hume, Kennedy Richart, Marley Vehslage. Trinity Lutheran: Aurora Willman.

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Ted Schultz is sports editor for The Republic. He can be reached at tschultz@therepublic.com or 812-379-5628.