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SEYMOUR — In Tuesday’s opening round of the Seymour Regional, the No. 23-ranked Columbus North girls tennis team proved it is very hard to beat a team three times in one season. The Bull Dogs defeated Bloomington South, 3-2, to advance to today’s 5 p.m. Seymour Regional championship match against Greensburg.
The first two meetings between North and Bloomington South on May 7 and May 14 resulted in 3-2 victories for the No. 18-ranked Panthers. Both came down to the matchup between North’s No. 1 Allie Smith and Bloomington South’s Denise Azcui.
“Every time, it came down to them, and every time Allie won the first set only to lose the next two sets,” said North coach Kendal Hammel.
Tuesday’s match, the third meeting, saw North win both doubles events and South winning at No. 2 and No. 3 singles. The Bull Dogs counted on Smith to win in order to advance.
“With her being a freshman, I never played her but heard she was a good player and she beat me the first two times,” Smith said.
Not only did all three contests come down to them for the deciding point with their teams watching, but Smith also won the first set of each in a tiebreaker.
“It’s weird,” Smith said. “Every time I have played her, in the first set, we’ve gone to a tiebreaker and I won every time and did it again (Tuesday).”
But history did not repeat itself in one key aspect: Smith won the second set.
“With Allie, in the back of my mind, I said, ‘We don’t want to lose that first set,’ and she pulled it off again somehow and stayed on in that second set instead of letting it slip away,” Hammel said. “I can’t say enough about her. She just played fantastic. That is an all-state player right there.”
North also got wins in both doubles events with the duo of Rachael Miller and Melissa Sanders beating Holly Cornwell and Megan Kelly (6-3, 6-1) at No. 1 and Jaewon Jung and Julie Reece defeating Natasha Mohney and Jesse Menefee (6-0, 6-1).
“We didn’t start off very well, the whole thing was kind of hot and cold,” Miller said of her team’s win.
“Like Rachael said, we were hot and cold, but when she wasn’t doing well I had her back,” Sanders added. “So when I started doing bad, she had mine which is how we pulled it out because we didn’t play to our full potential.”
The duo of Jung and Reece fared much better and had little trouble with their Bloomington counterparts.
“The first two times we played we beat them pretty easily so we didn’t expect to have much trouble,” Jung said. “But when we heard they pulled one of their girls (due to injury), we were a bit nervous at the beginning but we came through, had fun, and took care of business.”
However, Bloomington South tied the match when Lauren Whitlatch beat North’s Whitney Olibo at No. 2 singles (6-2, 6-2) and sophomore Janani Krishnan defeated Columbus North freshman Rosemary Yonushonis (6-4, 6-0), setting the stage for Smith and Azcui to decide the victor.
If the second meeting, which went on for four hours and 15 minutes, was any indication, this third meeting would be quite the marathon. After the first set between the two Tuesday surpassed two hours, it was clear that this would be another battle of endurance.
For coach Hammel, the difference between Tuesday and the previous two meetings was twofold: preparation and determination.
“This team is a bunch of seniors and they weren’t to be denied,” Hammel said. “We talked about it and this is still our year. We have been here before and we are not done after tonight. We still have more to do yet.”
For Allie, coach Hammel’s preparation was the key for the win.
“I have been thinking about this match three days straight since we found out they had beaten Bloomington North,” Smith said. “So I came out with a game plan and knew what I wanted to do. It worked out this time so I guess the third time is the charm.”
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