As is often the case in their spirited rivalry, it just was a matter of a few key shots between the Carmel and North Central high school boys tennis teams.
The No. 1 Greyhounds edged No. 3 North Central 3-2 in the IHSAA state championship Oct. 17 at North Central. It was a record-tying fifth consecutive state title for Carmel and was its third straight 3-2 win against the Panthers in the championship final.
“It’s North Central. It doesn’t matter what our records are, when we play each other, it’s a battle,” Carmel coach Bryan Hanan said. “They’re always going to bring it. We’re always going to bring it. That’s what rivals do.”
The Greyhounds haven’t lost a match in those five seasons. Their 23-0 record ran their five-year winning streak to 106.
Junior Eli Mercer edged Alex Antonopolous 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to give the Greyhounds the victory.
“Even when I was down and I was losing confidence, I tried to fight for every point and do my best for the team,” said Mercer, who finished with a 27-0 record. “I had to fight for every point and do my best for the team. In the third set, I just focused on being more confident and hitting through the ball.”
Getting the final point ignited a spirited celebration.
“I was so ecstatic for the team,” Mercer said. “It’s the best to beat North Central.”
Hanan was confident in Mercer’s determination.
“No matter how much he struggled in that match, I just know the type of character he has,” Hanan said. “He never quits.”
Carmel’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Jonas McNamar and junior Srisanth Malpeddi and the No. 2 doubles team of seniors Ethan Eckhart and Corbin King earned the other two points with victories.
Junior Broc Fletcher lost to North Central’s Ajay Mahenthiran 6-4, 7-5 at No. 1 singles.
“That match was a lot about momentum, and their guy picked up momentum in the end,” Hanan said. “Broc beat him earlier in the year and the match is always tight.”
At No. 3 singles, Greyhounds sophomore Jack Jentz lost his first match of the season to North Central’s Marquis Willingham, finishing 25-1.