CRAWFORDSVILLE — Heading into the season, veteran tennis coach Wes Kirk knew he had a good team on the courts. But it wasn’t until the first loss of the season, that the Sullivan coach knew just how good his Lady Arrows’ team could be.
Kirk saw something in a close 3-2 loss to state-ranked Terre Haute South.
During the only loss of the season, to date, the Lady Arrows realized how close they were from making another postseason run.
After avenging that loss to the No. 29 ranked Braves, Sullivan has not shown any signs of slowing down.
The Lady Arrows captured the program’s second regional championship on Wednesday evening with a 5-0 win over Benton Central.
With the win, Sullivan improved to 23-1 on the season and heads to the Center Grove Semistate on Saturday against undefeated Centerville (23-0).
“We are playing some very strong tennis right now and seem to be peaking at a good time,” Kirk said of his team. “The girls are making great choices and working hard. Along with those two things, we are also getting great leadership from our seniors Hanna Burkhart, Paige Chickadaunce and Maggie McCammon. Those three things are what I am most proud of.”
As for how the team has responded since a loss to Terre Haute South in the regular season, Kirk is not surprised.
“After seeing how close we were to beating them, I really started to think this could be a special team,” the veteran coach said. “And they have really flipped the script. We have faced four or five really strong opponents in a row now and have handled all of that pressure really well.”
Like she has done most of the season, freshman Ally McKinney was the first Lady Arrow off the court on Monday with a point. The No. 3 singles player improved to 22-1 on the season with a 6-0, 6-3 win.
After falling in the postseason season for the first time on Tuesday against Greencastle, Burkhart bounced back with an easy 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 1 singles for the second Lady Arrows’ point of the match.
Burkhart mentioned the thought of every match being her last career match has motivated her play of late.
“Losing is never fun but I am grateful that my teammates had my back (Tuesday) which allowed me to have this match tonight,” the senior said. “You never know when it’s going to be your last time stepping out on the court so I think that has given me a little extra drive and determination. And when you get a victory to have another match, it’s just that much sweeter. Like coach always says, we like more tennis.”
Within seconds of Burkhart’s win, Ella King and Parker Mischler clinched the regional championship for the Lady Arrows with a win on the No. 2 doubles court. The juniors picked up a 6-4, 6-0 win.
Almost simultaneously, Chickadaunce earned the fourth point of the match with a 6-0, 6-0 win on the No. 2 singles court. The win moved the senior to 23-0 on the season and extended her winning streak to 42 matches.
Continuing their improved play, McCammon and Sarah Francis completed the clean sweep with a come-from-behind win at No. 1 doubles. The duo dropped a first-set tie-breaker before cruising to a 6-1 win in the second. With the team match already decided, the final position of the match was decided by playing a tie-breaker in the third, instead of playing a full set. After being down 5-4, McCammon and Francis won six of the final seven points for the 10-6 win.
The duo also picked up a three-set win the night before against Greencastle.
“Maggie and Sarah are playing some really good tennis right now,” the Arrows’ coach said of his No. 1 tandem.
Burkhart mentioned she feels like the recent uptick in play from the entire team is due to no one wanting the season to come to an end.
“I am really just so proud of the whole team,” the No. 1 singles player said. “I think maybe something about the possibility of getting eliminated has made us all pick up our game … everyone is playing just so incredible and I could not be any prouder of all my teammates.”
Up next will be Centerville, who defeated East Cental, 3-2, to claim the Richmond Regional on Wednesday.
“To be at the semistate is just a great honor,” Kirk said of Saturday’s match. “When you get to this level there are only a small number of teams left so we know we are going to face good opponents. But we will continue to prepare, work hard and most importantly, believe.”
Saturday’s match at Center Grove High School was originally set to start at 11 a.m.. But due to graduation, the Sullivan administration has requested the match be moved to later in the day with a possible start time of 4 p.m.
Crawfordsville Regional Championship
Sullivan 5, Benton Central 0
1) Hanna Burkhart (SHS) d. Kinlyn Yadon 6-0, 6-1
2) Paige Chickadaunce (SHS) d. Rachel Tolen 6-0, 6-0
3) Ally McKinney (SHS) d. Amsley Harrell 6-0, 6-3
1) Maggie McCammon/Sarah Francis (SHS) d. Ellie Wetli/Sophie Cobb 6-7 (7-9), 6-1, (10-6)
2) Ella King/Parker Mischler (SHS) d. Kourtney Sarault/Hayley Todd 6-4, 6-0
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