BLOOMINGTON — Despite a minor rally late, the Columbus North girls tennis team saw its season end Wednesday with a 4-1 loss to Bloomington South in the Bloomington South Regional.
Bloomington South was ranked No. 21 coming into the match while the Bull Dogs were ranked No. 17, but it was the Panthers who looked like the higher-ranked team.
The Bull Dogs finished the season 19-8.
“It was a good season for us,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “We won our conference championship against Bloomington South earlier in the season, which was phenomenal. We won our sectionals. We came so close to winning this regional. If we would have pulled through in this tough regional, there was a good chance we could have made it to state.”
North and Bloomington South quickly picked up wins in the match. The first point for the Panthers came at No. 1 singles where defending state champion Denise Azcui defeated North’s Aubrey Smith 6-0, 6-1. North evened the match when Rosemary Yonushonis downed the Panthers’ Natalie Cook 6-2, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
However, the Panthers regained the lead as Luiza Hauskrecht and Madzia Iannello triumphed against Madelyn Sanders and Meagan Olibo of North 6-3, 6-4.
The most anticipated match came at No. 2 singles where North’s Paige Littrell faced off against Bloomington South’s Kacy Poore.
It was be the first meeting between the two this season as Poore missed much of the schedule due to an injury. Littrell forged a 5-4 lead in the first set, but Poore rallied to win the final three games for a 7-5 set victory.
Littrell went down 3-0 in the second set but mounted a gutsy rally by winning the next three out of four games. However, the early deficit was too much, and she dropped the set and the match 6-4.
“It was kind of an emotional letdown for Paige after she started the first set playing very well,” Hammel said. “She was in that match the whole way, but it was a couple of points here and there that made a big difference.”
Hammel said he was proud of the way Littrell battled back.
“She got down on herself early in the second set, but she did not quit and made it a match,” he said. “It was very close to the end. We knew going into this match that it was going to be an unknown factor of how Kacy was going play against Paige’s style of game and how well Kacy was going to be able to move around with her foot surgery and everything.”
A three-set match came at No. 2 doubles where Bloomington South’s Meg Shishman and Maddy Smith captured the first set 6-1. North’s Brooke Richardson and Yijiang Zhao stormed back to take the second set 6-3. With the match already decided by the time the third set was under way, Richardson and Zhao fell 7-5 in the third set.
“I was proud of how well they competed,” Hammel said of his No. 2 doubles team. “They knew the team match was decided, and it was going to be their last match so they wanted to go out there and try to end their season with a win but came up short.”
Hammel is not looking forward to replacing seniors Yonushonis, Olibo and Richardson.
“Our seniors were a huge core for our team this year,” Hammel said. “They had the leadership and experience year in and year out, and they showed that to our underclassmen on the team.”