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May 15, 2013

GIRLS' TENNIS SECTIONAL PREVIEW: Unbeaten Braves have eyes on first sectional title

Highlanders, Bulldogs heavy favorites; trio will fight for Jeff Sectional title

> SOUTHERN INDIANA — Borden’s girls’ tennis team has been strong for most of the past decade. The Braves have won six straight Southern Athletic Conference championships. They’ve gone unbeaten the past two regular seasons, including a 13-0 mark this year. That includes a 3-2 win over perennial power Jeffersonville on May 1.

The program has one hurdle yet to clear — beating Silver Creek and winning a sectional championship. The past two seasons, the Dragons won their ninth and 10th consecutive sectional crowns by beating Borden 3-2 both years.

Starting tonight against South Central, the Braves will attempt to win the first Silver Creek Sectional tennis title in program history.

“We have a pretty good chance this year,” Borden junior Abby Ellis said. “I’m pretty pumped for sectional.”

The combination of Borden having one of its best teams in school history, and Silver Creek lacking its usual depth gives the Braves a golden opportunity.

“This team is probably the best suited to win a sectional for the reason that we’re really deep this year,” Borden coach Ross Shauver said. “Six of my top seven girls are all on about the same level.”

“They’ve been capable of challenging for it the last three years,” Silver Creek coach Robert Briscoe said. “Two years ago, it was 3-2. Last year, it was 3-2 in a close match. We wouldn’t expect anything less ... this year.”

Silver Creek’s Kat Hebble will be the clear favorite against Ellis at No. 1 singles. Aside from that matchup, the other four spots appear to be up for grabs on Thursday.

“I know we don’t really have much of a shot at winning No. 1 singles, because [Hebble] is an exceptional player. To be honest, it’s going to come down to our other four [positions]. We have really strong No. 2 and No. 3 singles,” Shauver said of Sarah Hurst and Kendyl Wheatly. “It may come down to doubles. Whoever takes No. 1 and No. 2 doubles may take the sectional. It will be interesting.”

“Our doubles are strong, as well as our two and three singles, so yeah, I think we have a pretty good chance,” Ellis assessed. “Everybody has to have a good day and play to their potential.”

Despite back-to-back 3-2 losses to Silver Creek, Shauver isn’t worried about his team’s mentality against the Dragons.

“It’s a different team and we’ll be playing a different [Silver Creek] team,” he said. “I’m more worried about the level of competition we’ve played compared to Silver Creek. This is one of the reasons we wanted to play teams like Jeffersonville. If we get into [a tough] situation in sectional, we just haven’t had a lot of matches we’ve had to fight hard. We need to be ready for that. Even if Silver Creek is a little down, we know they’re going to fight us every step of the way.”

“Our coach, he points us in the right direction,” Ellis said. “This is a new season, a new team. We’re good to go.”

The Dragons and Braves don’t meet in the regular season. When Eastern entered the Mid-Southern Conference a decade ago, the Dragons dropped what was then a one-sided rivalry from their schedule.

Despite Borden’s program catching up with Silver Creek, don’t expect the two sides to renew a regular-season matchup soon.

“I’m OK with us not seeing each other [during the regular season],” Shauver said. “It makes the sectional even more interesting.”

In two of the other area sectionals — the Floyd Central Sectional and the New Albany Sectional — the hosts are clear favorites. The Bulldogs have won 15 straight sectional titles and the Highlanders have won 12 in a row. The rivals should cruise to No. 16 and No. 13, respectively.

The Jeffersonville Sectional, however, seems more open than in past seasons. Jeff has won three straight titles, but the Red Devils only beat Providence — its first-round opponent on Thursday — 3-2 in the regular season. Outside contender Clarksville will likely await the winner in Friday’s sectional title match. The Generals will face New Washington on Thursday.

The sectional champion from Silver Creek will face the Floyd Central Sectional champion in one Silver Creek Regional Semifinal next Tuesday. The Jeffersonville champions will battle the New Albany winner. The regional championship will be contested next Wednesday.

The past three years, the regional has been contested by Floyd Central, Jeff, New Albany and the Dragons. Providence, Borden and Clarksville would like to see that streak come to an end.

“It wouldn’t be out of the question to see some new names,” Briscoe said.

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