Although he played doubles his first three years at Columbus East, simple math indicated that Matt Furnish would need to play No. 1 singles this fall.

Teams need to win at least three of the five individual matches to win a tennis match, and East coach Jim Stone knew his best chance for that was with Furnish at No. 1 singles. The senior won more than he lost and is this year’s Republic Boys Tennis Player of the Year.

“He knew that for us to win three points, he was going to have to win,” Stone said. “That’s even a little bit more demanding, on top of just playing tough competition. It’s a little bit more pressure, and I think the pressure was a little different playing by himself than with a partner.”

Furnish went 9-7 this season. One of the losses came against Columbus North’s Nathan VanDeventer. The two met again in the sectional where Furnish won the first set against an injured VanDeventer before the Bull Dog had to retire.

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That win allowed Furnish to advance in sectional competition. His season ended with a 6-1, 6-1 loss to Martinsville’s Hunter Sylvester.

“From the beginning part (of the season) through the middle, I didn’t play as well as I thought I could, but definitely that final match of sectional, I thought I played my best tennis by far this year, so I was pleased with the end,” Furnish said.

Furnish actually had played doubles the past five years overall. He played two years of doubles in middle school.

At East, Furnish played No. 2 doubles as a freshman. He and Sammy Woolwine played No. 1 doubles as sophomores and juniors.

“(Singles) was definitely a hard adjustment,” Furnish said. “I think I got a little more into the swing of things as the season went on.”

Stone knew going from doubles to singles would be a big adjustment for Furnish.

“I think he found out that not only playing 1 singles is a lot more demanding, but every team’s No. 1 player is good,” Stone said. “There are very few easy matches.”

Last year, Furnish and Woolwine made it to the regional finals in the individual doubles tournament. They were one win away from a trip to state.

Woolwine remained at No. 1 doubles this season.

“Definitely last year doubles with Sam, getting to regional was a lot of fun,” Furnish said. “We’re still disappointed to this day that we didn’t get to state because it was a winnable match that we lost.”

Tennis may or may not be in Furnish’s future. He is still deciding whether to go to Hanover and play at the college level, or to attend Purdue, Rose-Hulman or Louisville as just a student. He plans to study engineering.

While Furnish thinks he should have won some of the matches he lost, he realizes he played some pretty good competition.

“He’s a great kid,” Stone said. “He’s coachable, and he’s definitely worked hard at it.”

At a glance

The Republic All-Area Boys Tennis team:

Matt Furnish, Columbus East: The senior went 9-7 at No. 1 singles.

Neeraj Pandita, Columbus East: The senior went 15-1 at No. 2 singles.

Sammy Woolwine, Columbus East: The senior went 10-6 at No. 1 doubles.

Daniel Kuhlman, Columbus East: The senior went 10-6 at No. 1 doubles.

Nathan VanDeventer, Columbus North: The senior went 7-12 at No. 1 singles.

Anay Gangal, Columbus North: The senior went 12-9 at No. 2 singles.

Ammar Khaled, Columbus North: The senior went 21-3 at No. 1 doubles.

Kevin Lin, Columbus North: The sophomore went 21-3 at No. 1 doubles.

Isaac Jackson, Columbus North: The junior went 15-7 at No. 2 doubles.

Lucas Huang, Columbus North: The senior went 14-7 at No. 2 doubles.

Cash Myers, Brown County: The senior went 14-4 at No. 1 singles.

Sam Meek, Hauser: The junior went 11-5 at No. 1 singles.

Honorable mention

Brown County: Abe Oliver, Jesse Williams. Columbus North: Ben Mathew. Edinburgh: Coltan Henderson, Carlos Pazmino. Hauser: Justin Compton, Alex Gross, Jacob Johnson. Jennings County: Justin Gasper, Weston Miller. Trinity Lutheran: Jonathan Keith.

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