BEDFORD — Columbus North’s Isaac Jackson and Ben Mathew were one match-point away from heading to state on two different occasions during the boys tennis individual doubles regional Saturday at Bedford North Lawrence.
The duo beat Kaleb Knepp and Braden Kixmiller of Washington 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the regional final. Jackson and Mathew then won the first set 6-3 against Josh Nelson and Jacob Luebbehusen of Floyd Central before the Highlanders responded by taking the second set 6-0 and the third set 7-5.
“They played with a lot of heart,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “They’re seniors, and they were looking forward to the possibility to of playing in the state tournament. They were excited about that. They had a really good first set, a very poor second set and they just battled in the third set very well.”
Floyd Central found its rhythm and won seven consecutive games from the start of the second set to the beginning of the third. The Bull Dogs were down 4-3 in the third set before winning the next two games to go up 5-4.
Jackson and Mathew had two match points, but Nelson and Luebbehusen ended up taking the game, along with the next two games, to advance to the state finals.
“We had two match points and just couldn’t get either of the returns past the net player,” Hammel said, “If we could of gotten it started into play, you never know in that situation. After that, Isaac cramped up, and that hurt his movement. They sort of got down, (Floyd Central) just picked up their momentum and that’s just the way it went.”
Jackson was dealing with leg cramps that were bothering him down the stretch. North had to take an injury timeout late in the third set after Jackson’s leg cramps brought him to the ground.
Although the senior duo finished their high school careers with a loss, Hammel said they had a great season.
“Their record may not be fantastic but we play a lot of good competition, and they lost to Floyd Central, a team that is No. 1 in the district and has a good possibility to do well in the (state) tournament,” Hammel said. “We knew what the possibilities were for us if we could get past today.”