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August 13, 2013

H.S. BOYS' TENNIS SEASON PREVIEW: Jeff, Floyd Central expected to have close matchups again

Silver Creek, New Albany and Providence should also be formidable in 2013

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Last year, the intensity of the boys’ tennis rivalry between Floyd Central and Jeffersonville went up a notch.

The Hoosier Hills Conference rivals met in three ultra-competitive matches in 2012 that left Southern Indiana tennis fans wanting more.

The Red Devils won both regular-season matchups. They defeated the Highlanders in a dual match, 3-2. Then Jeff downed Floyd Central in the first round of the HHC Tournament, 4-1.

But the Highlanders had the last laugh in their third meeting, beating the Red Devils in the Floyd Central Regional final 3-2.

Jeff coach Mark Reilly thinks the rivalry is a positive for both programs.

“It’s definitely a good thing,” Reilly said. “Floyd is always ready when they come to regional. They got us last year, so it makes our guys hungry to pay them back this year.

“They have that tradition. When they put on a Floyd Central uniform, they think they are going to do well.”

Floyd Central coach Rick Miller expects the rivalry with Jeff to continue to be fierce this season. The teams could meet three times again in 2013.

“It’s good to see those close matches with Jeff,” Miller said. “It’s always close when we play them. They’ve got a good team and we’ve got a good team. It’s a dogfight every time we play them.”

Floyd Central has only two players back from last year’s starting lineup, but they are both three-year starters. Senior Ryan Plunkett will play one of the singles spots, while fellow senior Jack Stoner will compete at doubles.

Like always, the Highlanders have a deep pool of talented players in their program.

Seniors Harrison Davis and Austin Ivey, who have played primarily for the Floyd Central junior varsity in their high school careers, will get their shots  to play at the varsity level this season. Davis and Ivey are expected to play singles.

Junior Chris Collier is planning to play singles, while fellow junior Alec Faxon will compete at doubles. Miller plans to give freshmen Chris Boone and Reed Plunkett some opportunities to play in the starting lineup.

“We’re tickled with the depth of our team,” Miller said. “We have 10 to 11 guys who are playing well in practice. We have lots of talent, but it’s young talent. The guys play hard in practice and they want to win.”

While the Highlanders’ lineup is fairly young, the Red Devils bring back lots of experience.

Jeff junior Austin Hunt is expected to replace last year’s News and Tribune Area Player of the Year Jordy Rigsby at No. 1 singles. Sophomore Sam Coward will move up to two singles after playing two doubles in 2012. Fellow sophomore Brock Winchell will remain at No. 3 singles.

Four returning players are in the mix to fill spots on both doubles teams. They are seniors Justin Padgett and Chase Kayrouz, junior Connor Buntin and sophomore Jack Reilly.

Juniors Logan Giles and Kyle Mayrose, sophomore Kooper Falkenstein and freshman Bradley Cross are possible candidates to play doubles as well.

Despite his team’s intense rivalry with Floyd Central, Coach Reilly says the squad that the Red Devils must be aware of this season is Providence. The Pioneers have five key returning players and will be in the Jeff Sectional this year.

“Providence should be one of the top three teams in the area. Our sectional is going to be tough,” the veteran Jeff coach said. “[The Red Devils] would love to get back to the state tournament, but with Providence being in our sectional and with them having a really strong team, that helps us keep our focus. We’ll play the season and get ready for the tournament. Hopefully, [the Red Devils] will be fired up to play the first day of the sectional.”

Both Floyd Central and Jeff have challenging schedules this season. The Highlanders will play in several tournaments in Central Indiana, where they are expected to go up against state powerhouses like Cathedral, Brebeuf, North Central, Carmel and Zionsville.

“I don’t see anybody on our schedule that’s going to lay down for us,” Miller said. “It’s not an easy road, but that’s how you get better.”

The Red Devils will host two tournaments that will include several top teams from Indiana. Some of those teams in those tourneys are Jasper, Columbus North, Bloomington North, Delta, Zionsville and Greenwood. Jeff also will play in the Jasper Invitational, which features the host Wildcats, Terre Haute North and Castle. Plus the Red Devils’ schedule includes matches with Providence, Silver Creek, New Albany and Center Grove.

“I really feel we have a great schedule as far as the teams we play. We have a lot of top-25 teams on there,” Mark Reilly said.

Both Miller and Coach Reilly say that their teams will have to contend with Columbus East for the HHC Tournament title.

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