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Kendal Hammel is in his 20th year coaching tennis at Columbus North High School, and he says this year’s boys team is the deepest he’s ever had.
The seventh-ranked Bull Dogs are 15-0 going into today’s North Sectional semifinal against Hauser, which defeated Edinburgh Wednesday. The winner will face Columbus East or Brown County for the title Friday.
“I’m not going to say it’s our best team, but it’s a very solid team,” Hammel said. “A lot of things in tennis revolve around matchups. Some teams may have really good players at the top and not so good toward the bottom. We’re solid at the top with Luke (Red), and from there, we really have the depth, which is important.”
North hasn’t lost a doubles or a No. 3 singles battle in a dual match this season. Juniors Anthony Sanders and Jake Likens are 14-0 at No. 1 doubles. Sophomore Aditya Mantri is 13-0 at No. 1 doubles, including 9-0 with sophomore Kevin Luo, who is also 3-0 at No. 3 singles and 1-0 at No. 2 singles.
If you go
Columbus North Sectional
4:30 p.m.: Columbus East vs. Brown County
4:30 p.m.: Columbus North vs. Hauser
4:30 p.m.: Championship
Red, a senior, is 12-2 at No. 1 singles. Senior Krishan Narsinghani is 8-5 at No. 2 singles, 1-0 at No. 3 singles and 0-1 at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Rahul Jha is 10-0 at No. 3 singles and 2-0 at No. 2 doubles.
“We practiced hard in the offseason, and we practiced hard during the season,” Red said. “Tennis is our main sport, and we do it year-round.”
“We beat Center Grove for the first time ever, so that was nice,” Sanders said. “We’re playing well as a team in general. Kendal maybe has found the right positions for everyone on varsity.”
That includes Sanders, who played mostly No. 2 singles the past two years and finished last season at No. 1 singles.
“At first, it was a little difficult because I had never played with my partner before,”
Sanders said. “So doubles in general was kind of an adjustment, and I had to get used to (Likens), also. But we’re playing pretty well together now.”
Although the undefeated regular season was the first for the Bull Dogs since Hammel has been coaching, he has twice led North to the state finals. The Bull Dogs finished fourth in 2005 and third in 2006.
“Back then, we were really strong in the singles positions and solid in the doubles,” Hammel said. “This year, I would say we’re pretty strong in all positions. The players play year-round. They’re USTA-ranked players.”
Things are set up nicely for North to make another run to the state finals. The toughest competition in the sectional should come from East, and the top competition in Tuesday and Wednesday’s North Regional will likely be Bloomington South. The Bull Dogs have beaten both of those schools by 4-1 scores.
Columbus North wouldn’t face its first ranked team of the postseason until the Oct. 12 Jasper Semi-state. Evansville Memorial is rated No. 6, but the Bull Dogs beat the Tigers at all three positions in which the teams met in the season-opening Jeffersonville Tournament.
“I think we have a pretty good chance of getting to semi-state, if not past semi-state and on to state,” Sanders said.
“We like our chances,” Hammel said. “I’m hoping the guys don’t sit back and be happy with what we’ve done so far. It’s great to be 15-0, it’s great to win Conference Indiana, it’s great to be undefeated so far, but it means nothing if we don’t do anything in the state tournament.”
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