CARMEL — The final stop was a glamorous one. And the end set of achievements appear stunningly glamorous next to any other set in program history.
But it was hardly glamour that got the Elkhart Memorial Crimson Charger girls tennis team this far, it was gritty work, and that point wasn’t lost on their coach when it all ended Friday, June 6, at Carmel High’s Todd Witsken Center.
“One of my favorite things from this season,” Memorial coach Alex Holtz said after the Chargers’ 5-0 loss to No. 3 Evansville Memorial in a State Finals quarterfinal, “is from the regional. It rained right before the match, and our girls were actually out there with the coaches and athletic directors squeegeeing the courts to try to get them dry.”
That stuck with the coach.
“There were four or five of them out there squeegeeing before a regional match. I was worried they were going to get blisters,” Holtz said, “but they’re just a hard-working bunch by nature. I’ve told them how proud I am of their work ethic. That’s one of the reasons they made it as far as they did, because they worked so hard.”
Despite all the work, the Chargers (18-1) were no match for perennial power Evansville Memorial.
The Tigers (18-0) roared to victories in all three singles matches, giving up just one game on each court, to quickly clinch the team win. The most competitive of those three was at No. 1 singles, where freshman Krystal Grubb engaged Evansville senior Jasmine Lee for 55 minutes before falling.
The Tigers also won 6-2, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.
At 1 doubles, it appeared Haley Stouder and Taelor Grose might capture one point for the Chargers, but Evansville’s pair rallied for a 2-6, 6-4, 6-3 win to finish the shutout. That also eliminated Stouder and Grose (a team-leading 22-2 together) from advancing in individual doubles play.
“We started strong and I’m not sure what happened,” Stouder said. “We got away from doing the things we should’ve done and I think had a lack of confidence. We started our own comeback (leading 2-1 in the third set), but it was too late.”
In Stouder and No. 2 doubles player Hannah Dillman, the Chargers lose just two seniors.
“I’m just so proud and thankful we made it this far,” said Dillman, who plans to attend Southwestern Michigan College and is considering pursuing a career in firefighting. “There’s nothing to be sad about. It’s a great season to end my career on.”
An unprecedented season, to put it mildly. The Chargers had never won a conference or sectional title in girls tennis before this spring. They collected both on the way to the best record in program history, and added regional and semistate crowns.
“I told (the returning players) to keep doing what they’re doing, keep working hard, and remember how it felt to lose today,” said Stouder, bound for Purdue to study sports medicine.
“Our girls availed themselves very well today against a great opponent with a great tradition,” Holtz said of Evansville Memorial, which won its sixth state title in 2012 and has four starters back from last spring’s Final Four team. “They’re somebody we’d like to emulate. It’s just the first step to get down here and see what the State Finals are like in girls tennis.”
Evansville Memorial 3, Elkhart Memorial 2
Jasmine Lee def. Krystal Grubb 6-1, 6-0. Makenzie Myers def. Corinn Whittaker 6-1, 6-0. Brigitte Swartwood def. Taylor Freedline 6-0, 6-1.
Audrey Vincent/Caitlyn Martin def. Taelor Grose/Haley Stouder 2-6, 6-4, 6-3. Liz Schuler/Jo Carver def. Hannah Dillman/Mady Robison 6-4, 6-2.
Records: Evansville Memorial 18-0, Elkhart Memorial 18-1.