Carmel High School girls tennis coach Bryan Hanan recognized the pressure his team faced being defending state champions and being ranked No. 1 all season.
“We get everybody’s best, and we always have to show up,” Hanan said. “Sometimes, it gets to be a lot for the girls, and they think they have to win every match. Everybody stepped up and we did it. I couldn’t be happier for these girls.”
Top-ranked Carmel shut out No. 4 Fishers 5-0 June 4 in the IHSAA state championship at Center Grove High School in Greenwood.
“We had a banner with state scores, and there are a lot of 3-2 (scores). I told them how cool would it be if we get a 5-0 this year,” Hanan said.
It was the Greyhounds’ second consecutive state title and an IHSAA-record-tying 12th overall. North Central also has 12 state titles.
Hanan said it easily could have been three consecutive state championships because Carmel had a strong team in 2020, when the season was canceled because of the COVID-19 pandemic
Carmel advanced to the state final by beating No. 5 South Bend St. Joseph 3-2 in the morning semifinals, the same score the Greyhounds beat St. Joseph by on May 13. The Greyhounds finished with a 19-1 record, with the only loss being against Sacred Heart from Kentucky.
Carmel got a lift this season with the return of senior Lauren Littell, who finished with a 17-5 record at No. 1 singles.
Littell took two years off from high school tennis to concentrate on junior tournaments, but decided she wanted to play for the Greyhounds again her senior year.
“She went from a doubles state champion (as a freshman) to a singles state contender,” Hanan said. “I truly believe there are (just) five or six girls who can beat her, and she ran into one of them (in the semifinals). She was a great addition to have for the team.”
Littell said she wanted that team experience again.
“I wanted to be out here with all my friends,” said Littell, who will play at Northern Illinois University next season. “Our team has great chemistry and depth. We’re constantly supporting each other.”
South Bend St. Joseph sophomore Molly Bellia, the defending state singles champion, handed Littell her first postseason loss to knock Littell out of the state singles tournament.
However, Littell was able to avenge another previous loss. She had lost to Fishers freshman Misha Briggs in Carmel’s 4-1 victory May 12 but rebounded to beat Briggs 6-2, 6-0 in the state title match.
“Lauren came out and was just at another level,” Hanan said.
Greyhounds sophomore Nora Perkins concluded with a 21-3 mark at No. 2 singles, beating Fishers junior Izzy Mokra 6-4, 6-3.
“I’m really grateful to have such an amazing team to play with, because obviously you can’t do it by yourself,” sophomore Nora Perkins said. “It’s been a great experience.”
Perkins moved from No. 3 singles in 2021 to No. 2 singles this season.
“I worked a lot on my serve and forehand,” Perkins said.
Perkins said playing in a wealth of tournaments helped her this season.
“I think Nora is going to be a state title contender the next couple of years if she improves as much as she did from last year,” Hanan said.
At No 3 singles, Carmel junior Elyse Nelson (21-2) defeated Fishers’ Caroline Ober 7-6 (7-3), 6-1. Carmel junior Alexa Lewis and senior Hallie Reeves defeated Emma Beehler and Cassie Maurer 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 doubles, and senior Thea Bertolini and junior Ali Griffin beat Madelyn Barron and Meredith Ober 6-0, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles.
“The theme of our team has been we lose kids and everybody says, ‘How are you going to do next year?’” Hanan said. “We always have kids that step up. The kids behind the scenes are always working hard, knowing (their) only opportunity may only be this one year.”