JASPER — For the third time in four years, the Floyd Central Highlanders are headed to the state finals.
The No. 16-ranked Highlanders knocked off No. 6 Jasper 3-2 in the Jasper Semistate championship Saturday.
Floyd Central opened the championship with an early onslaught that saw the Highlanders grab a 2-0 lead in a matter of blinks. Giorgia Rosetto set the bar as she steamrolled her competitor Jasper’s Maria Lueken 6-1, 6-0 in just 40 minutes. Shortly after, Dana Frank finished off Anna Flick 6-0, 6-4 to seemingly suck the wind out of the Jasper crowd.
“Giorgia was off the court in no time,” Highlander coach Rick Miller said. “It was simply amazing. I believe everyone was in a little bit of shock.”
Jasper battled back and made things interesting. After claiming No. 2 doubles with ease (6-0, 6-0), Jasper also won a grueling No. 1 doubles match that lasted well over 2 hours.
Floyd Central seemed in control in the 2-2 tie and Alexis Applegate enjoying a 5-0 lead in the first set of her No. 3 singles match against Emma Yarbrough. Momentum shifted abruptly, however, as Applegate’s 5-0 lead evaporated into a 6-5 deficit.
“When Alexis lost those six straight games, the tension got thick,” Miller admitted. “You could feel it in the teams, coaches and fans.”
Applegate buckled down to force a tiebreaker, which she won 9-7. She then rolled in the second set to clinch a 7-6, 6-2 victory and the Highlanders’ finals berth they had been chasing.
“I’m extremely proud of the girls,” a fired up Miller said. “To go to Jasper and beat a team ranked 10 spots a head of us is a big time achievement.”
The Highlanders have been led all season by a three-headed monster at singles play. Miller credits their success to their ability to grow and improve weekly. He also hinted at a little preseason motivation.
“Honestly, I didn’t know how good we would be this preseason, but I tell you what, to be ranked 25th was a slap in the face,” Miller said. “It’s absolutely crazy for a state runner-up to be ranked 25th preseason. Like I told the girls. ‘It’s okay if they want to treat us like that, we’ll just go to the state finals every year.’”