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October 7, 2012

H.S. TENNIS: Floyd Central falls to Jasper at semistate, 4-1

JASPER — For the first 45 minutes at Saturday’s Jasper Semistate, it appeared that Floyd Central’s boys’ tennis team may be headed back to the state finals for the first time since 2006.

The Highlanders led at four spots late in each of those first sets, but in the end, it is the host Wildcats who will make the trek to Indianapolis for this weekend’s state finals after a 4-1 triumph.

“We started out well, but we didn’t close,” Floyd coach Rick Miller said. “Jasper turned it on. Once they got rockin’, things started to change in their favor.”

In the first set, Floyd’s Justin Batliner led Grant Weaver 4-3 at No. 2 singles and the Highlanders’ No. 2 doubles team of Andrew Nguyen and Codie Endris had a  4-2 advantage on Aaron Nordhoff and Ben Seng.

However, Weaver fought back for a 6-4 first-set win and the Seng-Nordhoff duo fought back to tie Endris and Nguyen at 5-5, then broke serve en route to a 7-5 set win.

“We were in complete control,” Miller said “We just led the whole first set.”

Nguyen and Endris fought back to take the second set, 6-3, before being beaten 6-0 in the deciding third set.

“[Nguyen and Endris] tore through them in the second set,” Miller said. “They were a completely different team in the third set. I think it was the atmosphere. There was a lot of pressure on them.”

The Wildcats, also qualified for last year’s state finals, also got a win at No. 1 singles  from Eli Seng, 6-1, 6-4 over Alex Martin, and at No. 1 doubles as Noah  Moss and Will Seeger swept Jack Stoner and Drew Hussung 6-4, 6-2

“They were better than us today,” Miller admitted. “There were a lot of hard-fought games. It was an experience for all of us.”

The Highlanders’ one win came at No. 3 singles, where junior Ryan Plunkett recovered from a first-set loss to defeat Logan Mathies, 4-6, 6-2 and 6-3.

“Ryan Plunkett has been the biggest surprise of all this season,” Miller said. “Ryan has been the most improved player on this team. His mental toughness the last couple of weeks has been impeccable. He refused to lose. He wanted to be the guy who went out there and lead they way. He’s been remarkable.”

The semistate appearance was the 23rd for the Highlanders and Miller. The veteran head coach said if it wasn’t for an idea from his son and assistant coach, Brandon Miller, and the sacrifice of some of his players, advancing to the Sweet 16 wouldn’t have been possible.

Brandon Miller came up with the idea to split up the No. 1 doubles combo of Alex Martin and Drew Hussung — a likely state finals teams — to move Martin to No. 1 singles, Batliner to No. 2 and pair Hussung with Jack Stoner. The move allowed Floyd to beat No. 9 Jeffersonville, which had beaten the Highlanders twice this season, in the regional. The plan needed five different players to buy into the concept.

“They understood what it was going to take to beat Jeffersonville and it paid off,” Rick Miller said. “It was Brandon’s idea. He had to convince me that it would work. [The players] wanted to win as a team. That was more important to [Martin and Hussung] than winning a state championship [as a doubles team] or to Justin being No. 1 singles.”

The match was the last for Hussung, Martin, Endris, Batliner as Highlanders. Lucas Corley will also graduate this spring.

“We had five seniors and I’m going to miss them all,” Rick Miller said. “They’re going to remember all of this fondly and I’m happy about that.”




    Singles — Eli Seng (J) d. Alex Martin 6-1, 6-4; Grant Weaver (J) d. Justin Batliner 6-4, 6-3; Ryan Plunkett (F) d. Logan Mathies 4-6, 6-2, 6-3.

    Doubles — Will Seeger-Noah Moss (J) d. Drew Hussung-Jack Stoner 6-4, 6-2; Aaron Nordhoff-Ben Seng (J) d. Andrew Nguyen-Codie Endris 7-5, 3-6, 6-0.

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