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May 30, 2013

GIRLS' TENNIS STATE PREVIEW: Title dreams for Floyd Central

Miller believes Highlanders can win state championship

FLOYDS KNOBS —  After beating Jasper 3-2 to win Saturday’s Jasper Semistate, Floyd Central has proven it has the best girls’ tennis program in Southern Indiana.

On Friday and Saturday, the sixth-ranked Highlanders will attempt to be the state’s best for the first time in school history.

Beginning with Friday’s state quarterfinal against No. 25 Greenwood at Fishers High School, Floyd Central (17-4) will be in pursuit of its first state championship.

Highlander coach Rick Miller believes it’s an accomplishable goal.

“This may be brash, but I think we can win,” Miller forecasted. “We’re not going up to get a fifth place, sixth place — or even second place. We’ve played all the top 10 teams, practically. We know what everybody’s got. We’re not going up there blind. I don’t want to jinx us, but I think we have an opportunity to do some good stuff this weekend.”

“I’m trying to reach the point that no matter what happens, we’re blessed to have gotten to this point,” senior No. 1 singles player Olivia Boesing said. “There are hundreds of other people in the state who would love to be in our position. Obviously, a state championship is what we’re going for, but we’re going to just take it match-by-match. If we don’t win [a state title], it’s nothing to hang our heads about.”

Greenwood is one of eight state finals teams, so obviously the Woodsmen are strong. However, they don’t appear to be on Floyd’s level.

The Highlanders’ quarterfinal opponent is anchored by junior twins Jackie Kawamoto and Jade Kawamoto at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively. Makenzie Elstrem also provides a strong No. 3 singles player for Greenwood.

The Woodsmen (17-5) beat 29th-ranked Roncalli 3-2 in the Center Grove Semistate for their second straight state finals appearance.

“We think their 1 and 2 singles are their top players,” Miller assessed. “We expect those to be their toughest spots. We think we’re a little deeper than they are. If we’re looking on paper, we think we have a little higher quality depth.”

“They must be a really good team to be at state,” senior Whitney Batliner said. “We’re going to go into it with confidence and hopefully we’ll move on.”

With a win, next up would be No. 4 Penn (20-0) or No. 11 Park Tudor (9-5) in Saturday morning’s semifinal round. Floyd beat both at the Crawfordsville Invitational on April 20.

“Whoever we play next, we expect to be a notch better because they’ll have won their round, too,” Miller said of the Panthers or Kingsmen. “It won’t get any easier. We expect to have to play A-tennis to win the thing. It’s going to be a tough situation and we’re going to have to compete at every spot.”

If Floyd gets to the title match for the first time in its program’s history, it would likely be contested against No. 1 Carmel (13-0) or No. 2 Evansville Memorial (21-0) on Saturday afternoon.

Carmel knocked out the Highlanders 3-2 en route to the team championship in 2011. The Tigers won last year’s title and beat Floyd 3-2 earlier this year.

However, Floyd has won 17 of its last 18 matches and 12 in a row. The Highlanders have won 15 matches in a row against schools from Indiana and have won 28 of 30 matches in the state tournament.

“You don’t have to play everybody there. You just have to win three matches,” Miller said. “That’s the good thing. Six sets is all we have to win and we’re in control of our destiny.”

Saturday’s victory over Jasper was double satisfaction as it gave Floyd a spot in the state finals and also avenged a 3-2 season-opening loss to the No. 3 Wildcats.

“Saturday was awesome,” Boesing recalled. “I went in expecting us to win. It got tight, but we persevered. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited in a high school match. It was a great feeling beating a team that, on paper, we weren’t supposed to beat.”

“We knew it was going to be tough going into it,” Batliner said. “We played really good.”

Batliner also expected the Highlanders to win on Saturday. Before the season, however, she wasn’t certain that the 2013 team would wind up in the state finals.

“Our team last year was our dream team,” she said. “Us coming out this year and being even better, it’s beyond my expectations. I’m so proud of the girls. I didn’t think we’d be this good, but I’m so glad we are because we’ve worked so hard.”

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