Singles sweep leads Bull Dogs past Olympians

Columbus North coach Kendal Hammel said at the beginning of the girls tennis season that the Bull Dogs would rely on their three singles players to win a lot of matches this season.

That trio came through in a big way Monday night. All three played some of their best tennis of the season to lead 14th-ranked North to a 4-1 win against No. 24 Columbus East.

“I thought Aubrey (Smith) moved some of the best that she’s done all year,” Hammel said. “She was focused on her shots. Madelyn (Sanders) has a lot of tricks and a lot of shots in her game, and between driving the ball, lobbing the ball, the drop-shots, the underspins, she moved it around a lot with the wind and really did a great job at controlling that situation. Then, Yijaing (Zhao), once she got the wind figured out, she stepped it up pretty well, too.”

Smith played the quickest match. She beat Megna Chari 6-2, 6-1 at No. 1 singles.

Last year, Smith won a pair of closer matches against Chari.

“I didn’t play her game,” Smith said. “I tried to keep playing my game, and I think I used that to my advantage.”

Sanders beat Adycin Rager 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Sanders, who won three straight-set matches in Saturday’s Floyd Central Invitational, improved to 6-0.

“We had a tournament this weekend, so I really got to practice my shots, and I swung through the ball,” Sanders said. “I liked how I played.”

Zhao overcame a little bit of a slow start to top Alaysha Pollert 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles. Like Sanders, Zhao won three straight-set matches on Saturday.

The other win for the Bull Dogs (5-1) came at No. 2 doubles, where Eva Chavalier and Servane Cloteaux beat Carolyn Travis and Emie Kiser 6-1, 6-1.

“Some of the spots like 2 doubles had a bunch of deuces, so I think it was a little bit closer than the scoreline would suggest,” East coach Matt Malinksy said. “I think there were a lot of good points going on (in all the matches), and they were doing a lot of good things. They just weren’t finishing the way we wanted them to. If we can finish our points a little bit better, especially the big points, it can swing the other way really easily.”

Long after the other four matches were finished, the Olympians (2-1) pulled out a win at No. 1 doubles in a third-set tiebreaker. Kendall Gerken and Kathryn Hozden rallied for a 6-7 (3), 6-1, (10-6) victory against Shweta Srinivasan and Ellen Carson.

Malinsky said Gerken and Hodzen started playing much more aggressively as the second set and the third-set tiebraker went on.

“They closed the net really well, and they did a nice job closing (the match) out there,” Malinsky said.

North now has won five in a row since a season-opening loss to No. 5 Center Grove.

“It was tough having Center Grove right off the bat because they’re one of the top teams in the state,” Smith said. “But I think we played with them pretty well, and we’ve played pretty strong the other matches.”

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