By Mark Ambrogi
The Carmel High School boys tennis team did some soul-searching before this season.
“There was a lot of focus to get better,” Carmel second-year coach Spencer Fields said. “We spent a lot of time talking about what causes us to win and what causes us to lose. Ultimately, we improved a ton.”
The Greyhounds finished 17-0 by topping North Central 4-1 in state team final Oct. 15, ending the Panthers’ three-year title run. Carmel had been eliminated by North Central in the state tournament the previous three years.
“I’d rather play North Central any day of the week, because they truly make us better,” said Fields, a former North Central coach and player. “In some ways they are our worst enemies but in a lot of ways they are our best friends, because they push in ways that other teams don’t.”
Carmel then won the singles and doubles titles Oct. 22 at Park Tudor to become the third boys team to sweep the team, singles and doubles state crowns. The others were North Central (1995) and New Albany (1967).
“It feels really cool to be the third team in history to get the Triple Crown,” said junior Patrick Fletchall, who beat Evansville Memorial’s Brandon Wu 6-1, 6-0 in the state singles final.
Fletchall (24-0) dropped just two sets all year. He finished 20-4 last season.
“The difference is I started playing smarter,” Fletchall said of this season. “I used to go for everything. Now I slow it down and go for the shots when I need it.”
The doubles team of seniors Ethan McAndrews and Jay Natarajan was 13-6 entering the postseason but reeled off 10 wins in a row to grab the title, beating Park Tudor’s Will Emhardt and Jared Katz, both Carmel residents, in the state title final.
“A lot of the losses were early in the season, so a big part for us was improving and making sure we played our best tennis as the season progressed,” McAndrews said.
This was Fields’ third state championship as a coach, winning with North Central in 2000 and 2007. He played on North Central’s 1992 state championship team.