There weren’t many things the group of six Fountain Central boys’ tennis seniors hadn’t done, but reaching the regional final was one of them.
That all changed on Tuesday night with a 5-0 win over Southmont in the IHSAA Regional semifinals at Crawfordsville.
“This is the one thing they hadn’t done in their careers was to win a regional round,” Fountain Central coach Chris Webb said. “This is a very talented Southmont team and we knew coming into it, we had seen them earlier this year and knew a little bit about them, but at the same time we knew they had improved a lot. To pull out a 5-0 win over a very quality Southmont team that gives our kids confidence.”
Carson Eberly beat Southmont sophomore Adam Cox 6-3, 6-4 at No. 1 singles, while Cody Linville downed Luke Tesmer 6-0, 6-1 in the No. 2 spot, while Sawyer Keeling beat Luke Watson 6-3, 6-0 at No. 3 singles.
The duo of CJ Yager and Jacob Keeling defeated lone Mountie senior Micah Korhorn and Mason Hall 7-5, 6-1, while Brent Myers and Brayden Prickett rallied to beat Chayce Howell and Harrison Haddock 6-7(3), 6-4, 10-8 (super tiebreaker).
Fountain Central’s senior leadership was noticeable as each match wore on.
“We still looked a little bit tense,” Southmont coach Nathan Poynter said. “Sometimes it’s because they want it a little too much, sometimes it’s just the jitters, and a lot of that goes back to the sophomores and still trying to mentally get them there. These guys still have their heart in it and I anticipate we are going to see them work at it through the offseason pretty hard.”
Eberly’s track toward Tuesday’s success started on Saturday when he overcame an early deficit and pair of regular season losses to defeat Covington’s Calvin Springer and lift the Mustangs to a fourth-straight sectional title.
“He’s just playing a little bit more aggressive,” Webb said. “About halway through the season he was just kind of struggling with his depth and that led to a struggle with confidence. And this game is so much mental and he’s a very very smart young man. He has the intellect, he knows what to do, it’s just trusting himself to do it and for some reason something flipped on Saturday and he started hitting with more confidence.”
With only slight changes to the lineup from 2019, Fountain Central was destined for a repeat of success, but the COVID-19 pandemic still played a factor at No. 1 doubles as Keeling and Yager had to learn how to play together on the fly. Webb has felt like their playing styles have complimented each others well all season.
“With Jacob and CJ, they have different styles with how they strike the tennis ball,” he said. “Jacob’s is very flat, and CJ loads his up with top-spin. For the opponents you’re seeing two totally different styles every time the ball gets struck from the baseline.”
Overall the six seniors have accounted for 19 years of varsity service including 2020. Four each from Eberly, Linville, and Jacob Keeling, three from Yager and two years each from Sawyer Keeling and Myers.
Fountain Central will face Terre Haute South tonight in the championship round — a Braves team that lost 3-2 to state runner-up North Central in the state semifinals last season.
“I just want us to come out and for Terre Haute South to know that Fountain Central is a quality team,” Webb said. “Our goal is the same every single day. To make sure we are better tomorrow than we were today.”