Bull Dogs survive injury, rain, Olympians

The Columbus North sectional boys tennis sectional didn’t get off to a good start for the host Bull Dogs on Wednesday.

First, No. 1 singles player Nathan VanDeventer dropped a weight on his right hand during weights class. Then, rain postponed the 4:30 p.m. scheduled start against Columbus East nearly three hours.

But after North coach Kendal Hammel, athletics director Jeff Hester and a few others squeegied and blow dried four courts, the 23rd-ranked Bull Dogs went out and posted a 3-2 victory against their crosstown rivals.

“We knew going in. We were pretty confident about the 3 singles and the 2 doubles,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “We knew we’d have to win one of the other three spots. One doubles have won some big matches for us this year, and they pulled through for us again.”

North (13-6) moves on to play Edinburgh in today’s 4:30 p.m. semifinals. Hauser will meet Brown County in the other semifinal, and the title match will be at 4:30 p.m. Friday.

VanDeventer tried to play and gutted out a tough first set, falling 6-2 to East’s Matt Furnish. With Furnish leading 40-15 in the first game of the second set, VanDeventer retired.

“Unfortunately, the retirement at No. 1 singles with Nathan being injured didn’t help,” Hammel said. “It sort of put more pressure on the rest of the team, but Matt was playing very well. But that did not help early in the match put the pressure on everybody else, knowing that we had to pull off a couple of those other spots.”

Hammel said VanDeventer will not play today against Edinburgh and is questionable for Friday’s championship match, if the Bull Dogs make it.

Meanwhile, Furnish will advance in the tournament and likely will play a sectional match Tuesday or Wednesday at Bloomington North.

“I think I played the best match I’ve played all season today, and it felt really good to get out there and get all my serves in,” Furnish said. “That really boosted by confidence to hit my ground strokes. Nate is a phenomenal player, and I knew it was going to be hard, but I’m very happy with the way I played.”

Following VanDeventer’s retirement, the No. 2 doubles teams took that court to begin their match. A couple minutes later, North’s Ben Mathew finished off a 6-1, 6-0 win against Luke Miller at No. 3 singles to even the match at 1-1.

The Bull Dogs took the lead when Kevin Lin and Ammar Khaled beat Sammy Woolwine and Daniel Kuhlman 6-2, 7-6 (6) at No. 1 doubles.

“The first set, I thought we played really well,” Khaled said. “The second set, it got harder and harder to see the ball as it got darker because one of the lights was out. We weren’t as consistent with our volleys, but we had periods where we played really well, and our experience helped us win.”

Lin and Khaled rallied from a 4-1 deficit in the second set to force a tiebreaker. They trailed 6-3 in the tiebreaker before winning the final five points.

“I thought we played OK,” Lin said. “We definitely can play better. It was kind of hard to see, but I think we endured through and adapted.”

North clinched the victory when Isaac Jackson and Lucas Huang beat Austin Guse and Jackson Stevens 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles. Right after they finished, East’s Neeraj Pandita and North’s Anay Gangal began a third-set supertiebreaker at No. 2 singles, with Pandita prevailing 5-7, 6-2, (10-6).

The Bull Dogs won the teams’ regular-season match 4-1 at East. Pandita also won at No. 2 singles that day, and Wednesday, the Olympians (9-6) added the victory at No. 1 singles.

“It was a lot more competitive, that’s for sure,” East coach Jim Stone said. “First doubles really should have split sets and should have got to a third. Neeraj has only lost one match this year, and for him to finish off his senior year that way, it was nice. Matt played a lot better, too, this time around.”

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