Cougars edge Bull Dogs for conference title

Barring a major upset, the Columbus North and Bloomington North boys tennis teams will meet again in 11 or 12 days in the semifinals or finals of the Bloomington North Regional.

On Thursday, the 21st-ranked Bull Dogs and 14th-ranked Cougars met with another big prize on the line — the Conference Indiana championship. Columbus North won both doubles matches, but Bloomington North swept the singles to claim a 3-2 victory.

“Even from the beginning of the season, we knew how it was going to go strength-wise with their singles and our doubles,” Columbus North coach Kendal Hammel said. “We have to work on our singles.”

The Cougars, who finished unbeaten in the conference, took a quick 2-0 lead when Mac Rogers beat Kevin Lin 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1 singles and Christian Gettlefinger topped Joey Zhao 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.

The Bull Dogs (11-4, 6-1) got on the board when Chris Ruble and Adam Saad beat Jack Rusche and Max Graf 6-1, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. They tied the match after Isaac Jackson and Ben Mathew finished off a 7-5, 7-6 (2) win against Sam Orbaugh and Arpon Bose at No. 1 doubles — but only for about a minute.

Right after Columbus North tied the match, Bloomington North’s Paul Dzubay completed a 6-2, 6-4 win against Akshaya Sabapathy at No. 3 singles. Sapabathy had led early in the second set.

“We were close at 3 singles,” Hammel said. “We had some opportunities there. We were not close at 1 and 2 singles. It’s just raising their game.”

The loss was the fourth in a row for the Bull Dogs, who began the season 11-0. They played four ranked teams in six days, falling at No. 12 Floyd Central 4-1 on Saturday and No. 27 Greenwood 3-2 on Tuesday before losing at home to No. 25 Center Grove 5-0 on Wednesday.

Columbus North finishes the regular season Saturday at Silver Creek and Monday at Roncalli before hosting the sectional Wednesday through Sept. 29.

“We have not been playing that well,” Hammel said. “We’ve played some good competition in the last week, and we’ve lost them all, unfortunately. I feel like teamwise, we haven’t been raising our level of play in positions we need to in certain spots. We’re just going to have to get back to what we were doing about a week ago or so, where we felt like we were in charge of what’s going on.”

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