Jeff Nelson | Journal Review
Crawfordsville tennis is no stranger to championships, and Macy Court has seen many champions play, but each one is special and sweet, and it has been a while.
The Athenian boys team capped a 6-0 Sagamore Conference season with a 5-0 win over Frankfort, marking the first conference title since 2015 for the boys team and the first for this group of athletes and coach. It is the 21st Sagamore championship for the boys team, which traces its heritage back to Anita Rupar and Steve Macy.
“It feels surreal,” fourth-year Crawfordsville coach Craig Brainard said. “We have such a young team, with no seniors. We won the county a couple of weeks ago, which was a huge goal for us this season, and now we cap off a perfect conference season. It is this type of experience, that winning experience, that makes you realize how great it is. I’m hoping this is the start of another winning tradition here at Crawfordsville.”
All three singles players and both doubles teams needed only two sets to earn their point, as the Athenians rolled to the 5-0 win.
Wyatt Motz won the two singles match to post the first point. The sophomore won 6-0, 6-1 to cap off a 6-0 conference mark.
Rowan Gambrel was only a minute behind in winning at three singles. The freshman won 6-0, 6-0, as he also has a perfect Sagamore record.
“Wyatt is a power, serve and volley guy,” Brainard said. “He can just overpower people. Rowan is such a consistent hitter, a very athletic player, whose speed pays off because he comes to the net so well.”
With the two points in hand, they went to the other courts to cheer on their teammates.
The next point, the clinching point, came when James Murphy won at one singles 6-1, 6-4. The victory caps a 5-1 conference record for the junior.
“James is a tactical player,” Brainard said of the #1. “He has a strong ground game, and is so good with his strokes and ball placement. That’s what makes him our #1.
With the conference title now assured, the crowd gathered at the doubles courts to check on that action, and the Athenian fans came away happy.
The two doubles team of Nolan Wyatt and Thomas Bowling fell behind early but got a service break and went on to win their first set 6-4. They stayed in front of the serve in the second set and won it by the same score 6-4.
The match concluded with the one doubles team of Jude Corsey and Jude Hutchinson mirroring the #2 team, falling behind early but rallying to win their first set 7-5. They played the attack game and wind game a little harder in the second set and won it 6-3.
“I’m really proud of all the guys,” Brainard said, “but both doubles teams really rose to the occasion. They started slow, turned it on, started working better together and stayed composed. They were very solid, very much a team on both courts. That kind of teamwork can really pay dividends as we head into the post season. They can be huge assets.”
The team has gelled since the start of the season, which saw the team lose a handful of 2-3 matches.
“We had guys who missed some practices early due to other conflicts,” Brainard said. “That meant we had to adjust our lineups. Once we got everybody in place, and this current lineup set, we have been playing solid tennis.”
The big win for the Athenians was a win over Southmont, the defending Sagamore champs.
“The guys just started buying into their abilities,” Brainard said. “They worked hard for every single point. This team came together to beat Southont and is coming together late in the season, and they rally around each other. They are truly a team.”
With a county and conference title in hand, the Athenians have only a few days to focus on the post season.
And, there is a match with a big school to sharpen skills heading into the sectional, which the Athenians will host, starting next Wednesday.
Monday they will take on Terre Haute North, and the team is looking forward to playing them again.
“They came up and played in the Macy Invitational in early September,” Brainard said. “We have some guys who want a second chance at some of them. They are a good team, always a tough opponent, and we like playing them right before the tournament starts. We can celebrate for a little while, but we need to get ready for them, and that will get us ready for Wednesday.”
Along with the Athenians, North Montgomery, Southmont and Parke Heritage makes up the sectional field.