Singles strikes gold as Owls top Highlanders 3-2

Brooke Schafstall sat with grinded teeth as she watched her fellow singles players battle with Floyd Central on Wednesday during the semifinals of the Hoosier Hills Conference tournament.

Schafstall’s job was finished. She got Seymour’s first points on the board as the Owls trailed 2-1. While she was watching Madalyn Baurle and Elise Hartung at two and three singles, she kept saying “come on, you got this,” and let out a scream when either of them scored a point.

She wasn’t alone. The whole Seymour tennis contingent was cheering for the two Owls, and when it was all said and done, Seymour swept the singles to defeat Floyd Central 3-2 and advance to the championship match of the HHC tournament.

“It feels really good,” Schafstall said.

Heading into the match, Seymour felt like the underdog. They knew the Highlanders were a bit stronger than last year, and Seymour needed to replace key spots left from graduating seniors.

After Floyd got both doubles points, it felt like they had the advantage, but the Owls’ singles players made sure to swing the momentum back to the team in purple.

“I think there’s a lot to be said when you believe in yourself and you get that confidence boost,” head coach Sharon Wood said. “In our one and two singles, we got off to a fast start, that gave us confidence to keep swinging. I was very impressed with the heat and conditioning, they stuck in there mentally.”

Schafstall won 6-0, 6-3 at one singles. She felt her start to the match was important.

“I came out really strong and I wanted to come out really strong,” Schafstall said. “Sometimes I come out a little rocky at the beginning, but in my head, I was like ‘I’m gonna win, I’m gonna try to win and I’m gonna do my best.’ I think I played really well today.”

Even though her opponent took a couple games in the second set, Schafstall kept shaking out her legs to stay fresh and avoid going to a third set.

Baurle also got off to a good start at two singles. She won the first set 6-2, but then found herself trailing 5-3 in the second set.

“When I went and talked to her when it was 5-3, I asked how she was doing, and she said, ‘I got to move my feet. My legs are getting tired,’” Wood said.

Baurle knew what she had to fix, and she did. She stormed back to take a 6-5 lead, but couldn’t quite close it as the match went to a 6-6 tiebreaker, meaning the first to seven points wins the set. Baurle left no doubt about it, winning the tiebreaker 7-2 and clinching the match for the Owls.

She put her arms in the air in celebration as her teammates rushed the court to congratulate her.

“Super proud of Madalyn,” Wood said.

As for Hartung, she dropped the first 3-6, but then made adjustments and won the next two sets 6-0, 6-1.

“The Floyd Central girl had a nice short game,” Wood said. “Elise finally figured out the spin on that. Once she was able to put that girl more on the move, she forced her to make mistakes.”

The victory was an exciting one for the Owls, who now advance to Friday for a chance to win their second straight Hoosier Hills Conference title.

Seymour will take on the winner of Bedford North Lawrence and New Albany, and no matter who wins that, the Owls will be on the road in the title match after having the first two rounds at home.

“I think we can go out there and give them a run for their money on Friday,” Schafstall said.

While Wood was reflecting on the win, admitting it hasn’t quite sunk in yet, she was proud of the larger meaning it has for the program.

“It shows that Seymour tennis is on the rise,” Wood said. “We’re working hard in the offseason, they’re going to clinics and working on their games. They’re setting a great example for the future of Seymour tennis. I can’t thank our girls enough for sticking to the grind and working really hard to get that.”