North gets last word: Bull Dogs advance to finals

BLOOMINGTON — There’s an old saying among basketball coaches that it’s very difficult to beat the same team three times in one season. Sooner or later, theory has it, the pendulum swings back the other way.

The Columbus North girls tennis team proved it on a different court Tuesday evening.

After suffering a pair of losses to Conference Indiana rival Bloomington North during the regular season, the Bull Dogs turned the tables at the best possible time, pulling out a 3-2 victory on the Cougars’ home courts to advance to the finals of the Bloomington North Regional.

Columbus North faces off against Seymour in today’s title match, with a berth in the Jasper Semistate awaiting the victor.

“We had three chances to get them,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “Either they are just a better team than us, or we were going to get them. One or the other.”

The Bull Dogs came out hungry and seized the early momentum, winning the first sets at second and third singles as well as at No. 2 doubles. In two of those positions, Columbus North had dropped both regular-season matches.

It was Bloomington North, though, that picked up the first two match points of the day, getting victories at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles to push the Bull Dogs to the brink.

Columbus North’s No. 2 doubles team of Yijiang Zhao and Shweta Srinivasan made it 2-1 by finishing off a 6-3, 6-4 victory against Lillian McAfee and Jordan Trilling.

Bloomington North had rallied from a big second-set deficit before Zhao and Srinivasan buckled down to serve out the match.

“We really came back with a vengeance,” Srinivasan said. “We really wanted to win.”

At No. 2 singles, Paige Littrell had lost both of her previous meetings against the Cougars’ Carolina Lopes in straight sets, falling victim to Lopes’ deliberate style.

Tuesday, Littrell flipped the script and beat Lopes at her own game, waiting out a 6-4, 6-4 triumph that tied the match.

“Patience was the key to that match,” Littrell said. “I’ve played this girl twice, and both times I was not patient. I think every match I’ve had this year, I’ve not been patient. That was a match that I’ve never played before. It was a lot different for me, but I came out with it.”

Once Littrell had finished up, all eyes were on the No. 3 singles match between Columbus North’s Madelyn Sanders and Bloomington North’s Kelly Fox. Sanders had breezed through the first set, 6-2, before dropping the second, 6-3.

Rather than let things get away from her, Sanders reclaimed the momentum, roaring out to a 5-1 lead in the final set before putting it away at 6-3.

“I knew I could come back and play a lot better my third set,” Sanders said, “so I wanted to pick it up and play like I did first set.”

Hammel was especially pleased that his team was able to pick up two matches it had previously lost twice — “It didn’t go like we thought it would,” he admitted.

Regardless of how, the Bull Dogs managed to get over the one hurdle they had been unable to clear all season long, and they did it at the best possible time.

“We knew we could do it,” he stated. “It’s just been a thorn in our side all season long. But this is the one that matters, I guess, right now.”

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Ryan O'Leary is sports editor for the Daily Journal. He can be reached at roleary@dailyjournal.net or 317-736-2715.