Bull Dogs’ Liu getting it done on, off the tennis courts

Matthew Liu’s performance on the tennis courts the past four years might be surpassed only by his performance in the classroom.

A four-year starter for four state-qualifying Columbus North boys tennis teams, Liu also ranks No. 1 in his senior class. That combination helped him earn Academic All-State honors from the Indiana High School Tennis Coaches Association.

“He’s a very smart player, and it carries over from what he does in the classroom,” North coach Kendal Hammel said. “He understands the game, and he’s always questioning about what to do. He’s willing to make the adjustments. He’s talented enough to be able to do that, too.”

Liu has been a mainstay in the Bull Dogs lineup since he arrived at North in the fall of 2018. He played No. 2 doubles as a freshman, No. 1 doubles as a sophomore and No. 2 singles last year.

This season, Liu is back at No. 1 doubles for the No. 2-ranked team in the state. He has career records of 18-4 in singles and 55-10 in doubles.

“Honestly, I can say it’s probably one of the best experiences I’ll ever have, especially just having the chance to both play singles and doubles,” Liu said. “Just having my last year of my high school tennis being at doubles seems like a fitting tribute.”

Liu and sophomore Amrit Kar are 17-3 this season at No. 1 doubles heading into this weekend’s state tournament.

“Overall, we’ve been playing pretty well,” Liu said. “We might have had a few disappointing losses here and there, but I think we’ve rebounded stronger and will come out stronger at the state tournament this week.”

“He’s had a phenomenal career,” Hammel added. “He’s played some singles, he’s played some doubles and he’s done very well and excelled at all of his positions each year. He’s been an important part of every team for four years going to the state finals. He’s put the effort in and I think has really enjoyed playing the game and being a part of the team.”

Ironically, enjoying himself also is one of Liu’s keys to having success in the classroom.

“I wouldn’t say that being valedictorian was my main goal,” Liu said. “My main goal academically was to go to school, have fun learning. I think that most of this valedictorian came as a result of me just enjoying what I’m doing in school and just doing well.”

Liu’s competitive tennis career likely will be coming to an end after this weekend. He hasn’t decided on a college, but wants to major in chemistry and is looking at a career in the medical field. He may play intramural or club tennis.

The focus for now is on Friday’s state quarterfinal matchup against No. 9 Munster at noon at Carmel. If North (17-1) wins, it likely would play No. 1 Carmel in the semifinals at 10 a.m. Saturday, also at Carmel.The Greyhounds are the only team to beat the Bull Dogs this season.

The final is at 2 p.m. Saturday.

“We’re trying to take these one match at a time,” Liu said. “We always knew we wanted to get to be able to get to the state finals. But we’re going to focus on one match at a time. Munster, we haven’t played them before, but they’re ranked No. 9 in the state, so we know they’re a very capable team. We’re just going to have to give it all we have, put all of our effort in it and show the state why we’re ranked No. 2.”

Besides Liu and Kar at No. 1 doubles, North’s lineup consists of senior Nathan Lin at No. 1 singles, freshman Hank Lin at No. 2 singles, sophomore Anvay Atram at No. 3 singles and senior Eric Stavnheim and freshman Parth Shah at No. 2 doubles.

“Overall, I think the team itself is having probably one of the best seasons in Columbus North history, being ranked second in the state,” Liu said. “We have really solid lineups for both singles and doubles.”

The Bull Dogs look to have a slight edge for their quarterfinal matchup with Munster.

“Looking at the scouting report, I think most people would feel we have the advantage, primarily in the singles, and the doubles may be a tossup,” Hammel said. “I hear they’re a very loud team and can get a little obnoxious, so we have to be ready for that situation. Plus the weather, we don’t really know what’s going to happen.”