By Mark Ambrogi
For The Republic
CARMEL — During the post-match photo session with parents, North boys tennis coach Kendal Hammel reluctantly told his players to hold up the No. 2 sign with two fingers instead of customary No. 1 sign.
It was fitting as top-ranked Carmel shut out the No. 2 Bull Dogs 5-0 in Saturday’s IHSAA state semifinals at Carmel High School.
North finished 18-2, with its other loss being a 4-1 decision to Carmel Aug. 31.
“They were ready, having playing us earlier in the season,” Hammel said. “Their coach came and told me he thought we were the second-best team in the state, so they were preparing for this match this morning. We did, too. They handled it better than we did all the way through. They came out strong in doubles and took care of business right away. I’m proud of this team. There is nothing to be disappointed about.”
Following the championship match, North’s Matthew Liu was named the IHSAA Mental Attitude Award winner. Liu ranks first in his senior class and played No. 1 doubles this season for the Bull Dogs.
Greyhounds senior Broc Fletcher rallied to beat Nathan Lin 3-6, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. That loss eliminated Lin, who was previously unbeaten in the postseason, from the singles state tournament.
“Nathan had been playing great,” Hammel said. “He won the first, then (Fletcher) stepped in. Nathan hung in there, but it didn’t happen for him.”
Hamel said Lin had some tightening in his leg.
“That did affect him because Nathan usually has very good movement,” Hammel said.
Lin said it felt like a leg pull or cramp.
“Every time jumping up for a serve, it was on the edge of actually cramping,” Lin said. “It was hard to serve better like I did in the first set. It bugged me overall in the third set.”
Fletcher already had been eliminated in singles portion of the tournament.
“Broc had a tough match against North Central,” Carmel coach Bryan Hanan said of Fletcher’s three-set loss. “He was a little down this morning, but turned it around and found some positive energy, I’ll put my money on Broc a lot of times. He’s won a lot of matches for us the last four years. Nathan is a great player, too. Broc just happened to be on top today.”
Lin, who finished 18-3, said it was disappointing not to advance in the singles competition.
“We still made it to the semifinals, which is what we wanted. We just got an unlucky draw against Carmel,” Lin said. “Overall, I’m happy about what the team has done and how hard the players and coaches have been working for this.”
Lin’s younger brother, Hank Lin, lost to Carmel senior Eli Mercer 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles. Hank Lin, a freshman who finished 21-1, had won the only point in the regular season meeting with the Greyhounds.
“(Mercer) changed his whole style of play this time and changed the thing around,” Hammel said.
At No. 3 singles, Carmel freshman Rocky Li downed sophomore Anvay Atram 6-2, 6-1. Atram finished with a 19-3 record.
Carmel’s No. 1 doubles team of Srisanth Malpeddi and Jack Jentz remained unbeaten with a 6-2, 6-0 victory over Liu and sophomore Amrit Kar.
Carmel’s No. 2 doubles team of Braedon McIntyre and Adrien Qi were leading senior Eric Stavnhein and freshman Parth Shah 6-1, 5-2 when North was forced to retire when Stavnheim aggravated an earlier knee injury by taking a spill on the court.
“He’s been dealing with the knee issue for quite a bit,” Hammel said.
This was Stavnheim’s second year on varsity.
“We lose three good seniors,” Hammel said. “I can’t take anything away from Eric, but Nathan and Matthew have been varsity players for four years and have put so much work into this program. They mean so much to this team and program, and I’ve been very proud to work with them for four years.”
This was North’s fourth consecutive year in state tournament. The Bull Dogs fell in the quarterfinals in 2018 and 2020 and in the semifinals in 2019.