TERRE HAUTE —
Although the sun was still shining, the proverbial spotlight shifted to Terre Haute North High School’s No. 2 singles tennis court Tuesday evening after Terre Haute South’s Krishan Kumar and the Patriots’ Ethan Caldwell had split their first two sets.
The Braves had taken No. 1 singles (sophomore Nathan Bogle) and No. 3 singles (sophomore Scott Kellar) in straight sets and the Patriots had taken No. 1 doubles (seniors Alex Farmer and Sam Wolf) and No. 2 doubles (sophomores Keaton Akers and Justin Newton) in straight sets, so the decisive match came down to Kumar vs. Caldwell.
Kumar lost the first game of the third set, then he stormed back to win the next six games and posted a 4-6, 6-2, 6-1 victory that gave the Braves a 3-2 triumph over their arch rivals.
Talk about handling pressure.
The South junior admitted this was “the best” moment of his tennis career.
“When I first came out [for the third set], I was a little tense because this was my first time being in that situation,” Kumar told the Tribune-Star. “But after the first game, I started swinging more freely and I think I started to play my game … and it worked.”
“I think he knew he could beat him,” South coach Bill Blankenbaker said. “I think Ethan may have gotten a little tired [in the third set]… It was a good match. Krishan’s a player. He plays all summer, so that pays off when you play a lot of tournaments.”
“Ethan played a very good match,” North coach Bob Denny noted. “Props to Ethan. I didn’t know if he could stay with Kumar, but apparently he can.”
Blankenbaker also sounded impressed with the performances of Bogle and Kellar.
“Wow, Bogle, what do ya say?” the veteran coach asked himself. “Tate [Egan, North’s opponent for Bogle] is an excellent player. Nathan just stepped it up big time [in winning 6-1, 6-1]. I think Nathan played very well.
“It’s always nice to beat North [team-wise]. It’s always close. Three singles — Scott Kellar — he came through also. I thought that would be a really close match and he won it in straight sets [6-4, 6-3].”
Bogle was the first player to leave the court with a win, giving South a 1-0 lead before North emerged triumphant in its doubles matches.
“Everything was going pretty well for me,” Bogle said. “My serve was on and I thought I used good strategy against Tate. He’s always a tough player and we’re familiar with each others’ games. I knew going in that I wanted to try different things and they ended up working.
“It might have been my best match of the year so far, but I’m definitely capable of playing better. But I think Tate is too. It won’t be that easy [if they face each other again].”
Meanwhile, Blankenbaker mentioned that one of South’s usual No. 1 doubles players, Josh Gayso, had to miss Tuesday’s match because of leg injuries. He was replaced by junior Reed Crawford, who teamed with senior Alex Barksdale.
From the North perspective, Denny praised his victorious doubles duos.
“At 1 doubles, I thought that they could do that,” he assessed. “I knew South had a reserve [Crawford] playing there. We’ve got a very strong 1 doubles team. Both boys are big and strong and they hit the ball hard. Of course, Sam Wolf is the baseball guy [who’s hit his fair share of home runs], but he plays tennis like he’s been playing all his life… Keaton and Justin played their best match of the year tonight [at No. 2 doubles].”
Neither coach would be surprised if these squads end up facing each other again in the sectional at South later this month, nor would the fans of either team.
“There’s no guarantees [based on Tuesday’s results], not for North and not for South either,” Blankenbaker emphasized, “because North’s got a very good team.”
“I think we’ll be OK come sectional time,” Denny predicted. “We’ll be ready to play.”
Terre Haute South 3, Terre Haute North 2
Singles — Nathan Bogle (THS) def. Tate Egan 6-1, 6-1; Krishan Kumar (THS) def. Ethan Caldwell 4-6, 6-2, 6-1; Scott Kellar (THS) def. Andrew Farmer 6-4, 6-3.
Doubles — Alex Farmer-Sam Wolf (THN) def. Alex Barksdale-Reed Crawford 6-1, 6-4; Keaton Akers-Justin Newton (THN) def. Trace Harruff-Matthew Gonzalez 7-5, 6-4.
JV — South won 7-4.
Next — South (7-2) will compete Friday at International School of Indiana in Indianapolis. North (5-3) will join South in the Metropolitan Interscholastic Conference championships Saturday at Ben Davis.