INDIANAPOLIS — When Des Evans took over the tennis program at New Palestine this past summer, he brought with him a simple, yet direct coaching philosophy: “Create a winning culture.”
Even in defeat Tuesday night at the North Central Regional, the Dragons personified their coach’s aim as they celebrated their team’s accomplishments together.
“I’m fantastically proud. They did a great job the entire season. Hamilton Southeastern got the best of us today, but we gained experience,” Evans said.
“Even though we went down, they fought for every point. It’s fantastic to see what we’ve achieved.”
No. 22 Hamilton Southeastern (11-7) handed the Dragons a 5-0 loss in the regional semifinals — the program’s first since falling to Delta 5-0 on Aug. 24.
New Palestine earned the right to compete at regional by clinching a county-best fourth straight sectional title, the first time a boys tennis program from the county has accomplished the feat.
Along the way this fall, the Dragons successfully extended their county championship streak to six straight and won 20 matches compared to only two losses all year.
Driven by a tradition set in motion under former coach Chris Hardin’s nine-year watch, the impulse to win was amplified and carried on by the team’s senior leadership and their instant embrace of Evan’s tutelage.
Coltin Espich at No. 1 singles, Nicholas Ochs at No. 3 singles and the trio of doubles players in Josh McKinney, Evan Rejer and Conner Page were instrumental, said Evans.
On Tuesday, they were content and the first ones to congratulate the underclassmen as each match concluded.
“This has been a very tight-knit group all four years,” said McKinney, who with Rejer finished the year 19-4 at No. 1 doubles. “Every year and every summer, the seniors worked harder and harder. To hold four sectional trophies and four county trophies … everything came full circle. It’s sad to see it end, but I couldn’t be more proud of my friends, who are also my teammates.”
After freshman Matthew True (21-2) pushed HSE’s Marcus Luke to three sets at No. 2 singles before succumbing to defeat for the first time in 19 matches (6-4, 1-6, 4-6), the seniors wasted little time to show their approval.
“As a freshman, I had a lot of great people to look up to. I had Brent Barrett, Conner Swain. They were great people who taught me how to act on and off the court,” McKinney said. “That was something important we’ve been trying to instill in the younger guys. … keep your head about you, play together, play hard. That’s a tradition I’d like to see them keep.”
Their example didn’t fall on deaf ears.
“Des is a great coach, and we played so well this year. I’m so happy we could get this far,” True said. “The seniors were great to me and to all of us. It’s going to be different next year, and I’m really going to miss the five seniors.
“I think this was a good experience. Hopefully, we have more to come.”
Marauder falls at sectional
Mt. Vernon’s Brendon Ware’s season didn’t end after the Marauders’ 3-2 loss to New Palestine in the sectional championship last week.The senior advanced to the individual sectional tournament at North Central on Tuesday where he faced Fishers’ Jon Hornett.Ware lost 6-0, 6-0, but had no regrets.
“It was a really good final go at it,” Ware remarked on the season. “We put together a great record, and I had a lot of fun with the guys this year. My goal was to make it to regional, but I can’t complain. Would have loved a different team result, but it was a great season.”
Mt. Vernon finished the year 13-5. Ware was 16-8 in his final season.
North Central Tennis Regional
North Central 5, Lawrence North 0
Hamilton Southeastern 5, New Palestine 0
No. 1 singles: Alec Gretencord (HSE) def. Coltin Espich (NP), 6-1, 6-1
No. 2 singles: Marcus Luke (HSE) def. Matthew True (NP), 4-6, 6-1, 6-4
No. 3 singles: Eric Lutz (HSE) def. Nicholas Ochs (NP), 6-0, 6-0
No. 1 doubles: Josh DeFonce/Nick Krauter (HSE) def. Josh McKinney/Evan Rejer (NP), 6-3, 6-0
No. 2 doubles: Andrew Myers/Mark Slaninka (HSE) def. David Hockett/Conner Page (NP), 6-1, 6-1.