By KEVIN HARRIS
FLOYDS KNOBS —
All season, one of the Jeffersonville boys’ tennis team’s goals was to redeem itself at the Floyd Central Regional after falling to the host Highlanders in last year’s regional final, 3-2.
On Wednesday at the Floyd Central courts, the 12th-ranked Red Devils made it happen.
Jeff (19-1) won its first regional championship since 2010 with a 4-1 win over Floyd Central. The Red Devils advance to the one-match Jasper Semistate at 10 a.m. on Saturday when they face the host Wildcats.
No. 9 Jasper defeated Washington in Wednesday’s Jasper Regional final, 5-0.
“That’s all we talked about this past week was to come out firing,” Jeff junior Connor Buntin said about paying back the Highlanders after last season’s regional championship loss. “They’re a good team and we definitely didn’t want to look past them.”
Red Devil coach Mark Reilly said his players have had their sights set on a regional title since they watched Jeff’s 2010 Final Four team, led by current Ball State player Patrick Elliott, make its state championship run.
“It means a lot,” Reilly said. “These guys were little when the Patrick Elliott group came through and won the regional. I think they set their goals to duplicate that.”
Wednesday’s victory was by no means a cakewalk for the Red Devils. Three of the five matches went three sets with Jeff winning each one of them.
At No. 1 singles, Red Devil junior Austin Hunt knocked off Floyd Central senior Ryan Plunkett, 6-0, 1-6, 6-2.
The No. 2 doubles pair of senior Chase Kayrouz and sophomore Kooper Falkenstein collected the Red Devils’ third and regional-clinching point with a 6-0, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3 win over the Highlanders’ Austin Ivey and Alec Saxon. Jeff has suffered only one loss at No. 2 doubles this season with a pairing that has included either Kayrouz, Falkenstein or senior Justin Padgett.
In the last match of the day, Buntin won at No. 3 singles over Floyd Central sophomore Duncan Bishop, 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
“We had three three-setters tonight, and we were able to win all of them,” Reilly said. “[If Jeff lost one of those matches], we could’ve easily been going home tonight.”
Sophomore Brock Winchell provided Jeff with its first point, as he defeated Highlander freshman Chris Boone at No. 2 singles, 6-2, 6-1. Reilly thought his singles play was critical on Wednesday.
“Coming into today, I thought if our singles played well, then I thought we should dominate them at singles,” Reilly said. “They have two [underclassmen] at the two and three singles spots, and they’ve gotten better throughout the season. But I felt like our singles players were favored.”
Reilly thought his team started Wednesday’s match tentative. But he felt his players started to loosen up once they got started.
“I felt like we didn’t come out firing today,” Reilly said. “We played safe tennis. [The Red Devils] didn’t want to lose the match and they let Floyd dictate the match a little bit. We didn’t take control of the matches and go after them.”
Floyd Central’s lone point occurred at No. 1 doubles. Seniors Jack Stoner and Harrison Davis knocked off Jeff sophomores Sam Coward and Jack Reilly, 6-3, 7-6(4).
Highlanders’ assistant coach Brandon Miller, who filled in for Floyd Central coach and his father Rick Miller on Wednesday because the Highlander boss was sick, thought his team competed hard against the Red Devils.
“We played the 12th-ranked team in the state as well as we could,” Brandon Miller said. “Ryan Plunkett taking Austin Hunt to three sets was incredible. We had five guys that had no varsity experience entering this season, but they showed how much work they put into last offseason.
“[Jeff’s] depth beat us today. Mark is a great coach and they deserved the semistate spot.”
Floyd Central (10-11) says goodbye to four seniors in Plunkett, Stoner, Davis and Ivey.
Jasper handed Jeff its lone dual-match loss of the season, 4-1. Coach Reilly thinks the Red Devils can give the Wildcats a run their money on Saturday morning.
“On paper, we should be competitive with them,” he said. “We played them tight in three of the matches the last time we played them and won one of them.”
FLOYD CENTRAL REGIONAL
JEFFERSONVILLE 4, FLOYD CENTRAL 1
No. 1 — Austin Hunt (J) d. Ryan Plunkett 6-0, 1-6, 6-2.
No. 2 — Brock Winchell (J) d. Chris Boone 6-2, 6-1.
No. 3 — Connor Buntin (J) d. Duncan Bishop 5-7, 6-2, 7-5.
No. 1 — Jack Stoner-Harrison Davis (F) d. Jack Reilly-Sam Coward 6-3, 7-6 (7-4).
No. 2 — Chase Kayrouz-Kooper Falkenstein (J) d. Austin Ivey-Alec Saxon 6-0, 6-7 (6-8), 6-3.