Although they made it to the regional as a doubles team last boys tennis season, Matt Furnish and Sammy Woolwine will be splitting up this fall.

With Columbus East losing its top two singles players to graduation, coach Jim Stone needed singles players. So Furnish will step into the No. 1 singles spot when the Olympians open the season today at Bloomington South.

“I kind of thought at the end of last season that may have to happen, so I played a lot of tournaments in the offseason to try to prepare for that,” said Furnish, now a senior. “It looks like now, all that work is going to hopefully pay off.”

Woolwine, meanwhile, could be at No. 3 singles. Or he could be back at No. 1 doubles for the fourth consecutive year.

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The senior considers himself a much better doubles player than a singles player.

“I don’t really like the idea of (singles) too much, but I’ll do whatever is best for the team,” Woolwine said. “I want to win sectional as a team and not just individuals.”

Last year, Furnish and Woolwine went 14-4 at No. 1 doubles. Although the Olympians lost to Columbus North in the sectional, the East duo was able to advance in the state doubles tournament by remaining unbeaten in the sectional.

“I think we definitely had a great year,” Furnish said. “We started off a little slow with a couple losses, but we really caught our groove in our third match, and everything started going well. Then when we beat North the first time (in the regular season), it felt great, and we knew we could do it again.”

Furnish and Woolwine put up a tough match against Evansville Memorial senior twins Chase and Colin Throop in the semifinals of the Bedford North Lawrence Regional. After a close first set, the Throops pulled out a 7-6 (2), 6-3 victory.

The Throops went on to win the regional and advanced to the state quarterfinals.

“I wish we would have won in regional,” Woolwine said. “We were pretty tight with them, but it was a good season overall, so I was happy.”

Furnish played No. 2 doubles as a freshman and No. 1 doubles the past two years. Anticipating the move to single, he played in several tournaments since last season and won a couple of them.

Stone said Furnish is playing extremely well.

“He probably works harder in the offseason than anybody I’ve ever had,” Stone said. “He plays in a lot of the tournaments, which is crucial, and he took a lot of private (lessons). He knew we were going to be shortchanged this year, and he’d have to split up, but he did a good job over the winter.”

That offseason of work has Furnish feeling confident going into his final year of high school tennis.

“My groundstrokes are looking a lot better than they have before,” Furnish said. “My serve has gotten better. I think I can hang in with most of the top players around.”

Double Trouble

Name: Matt Furnish

School: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Sport: Tennis

Other activities: President of National Honor Society, Student Assembly, Family Career Community Leaders of America

Favorite athlete: Roger Federer

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Name: Sammy Woolwine

School: Columbus East

Year: Senior

Sport: Tennis

Other activities: Fishing, working on Food Pantry for senior project

Favorite athlete: Roger Federer

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