This group of seniors on the Seymour boys tennis team will be playing in the finals of the Hoosier Hills Conference tournament this afternoon for the first time in their careers.
The Owls reached the HHC finals by defeating Jennings County 3-2 at home Thursday afternoon.
The Highlanders advanced by defeating Jeffersonville on Wednesday.
The Owls take a record of 11-1 and a 10-match win streak to Floyd Central, while the Highlanders are 10-6.
Owls coach Brandon Davis said his players have to believe that they can win as Floyd is ranked No. 14 in the state.
“In our heads we need to tell ourselves that we’re going to win. We have to want it, we have to play each point, and we have to tell ourselves ‘we’re going to win this point, we’re going to win the next point’ all the way through,” he said. “We cannot quit on any point or else we will lose the match. We have to keep playing through every single point.”
Eli Meyer, Jack VonDielingen, Hunter Heckman, Reuben Kruse and Trevor Alberring are the seniors on the team.
Seymour and Floyd Central were both in the Silver Creek Invite Sept. 2-3. The Highlanders finished first and the Owls tied Loogootee for third.
Davis said his players came out strong against Jennings.
“I think we just wanted it. We wanted to make it to the championship,” he said. “This is the first time in these seniors’ high school career that they’ve made it to the HHC championship. They wanted it so they came out and did it.”
The Seymour-Jennings match started Wednesday, but was stopped by lightning. Kruse defeated Isaac Lightner 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles on Wednesday.
The other four matches were completed Thursday, and the doubles teams secured the win with straight-set victories.
The No. 2 doubles team of Drew Handloser and Parker Thompson defeated Alex Leach and Ty Zohrlaut 6-3, 6-2, and VonDielingen and Joe Schmidt closed out Ryan Schuck and Justin Ramey 6-3, 7-5 at one doubles.
Handloser is a junior and Thompson is a sophomore, and both players said they have been playing tennis for four years.
Handloser said he started the season playing JV matches, while Thompson began the season at No. 3 singles.
They played the Floyd Central doubles team at Silver Creek and split sets before losing a tie-breaker.
“(Thompson) and I have talked about what we could do and the kind of strategy we can do (Friday),” Handloser said. “We need to focus in on being there for each other and pick each other up and bring that energy and have confidence in each other’s shots.”
Thompson recalled, “We didn’t start off very good. We lost our first set, so I think if we get off to a good start we should be OK.”
Handloser said he has played in eight varsity matches, including the tournament at Silver Creek.
“I like doubles. My older brother Grant used to play doubles and he would always talk to me about how I could improve my volleys and stuff like that. We played a lot last season and the past weekend I played tennis with him,” Handloser said.
Handloser believes you need to have a short memory when playing tennis.
“You don’t want to get stuck on a point and keep your mind in the past. You want to keep thinking about the point you’re on and just really focus in the moment and don’t get down on your partner or yourself,” he said. “Just encourage each other and really bring that energy because it’s really hard to rally back when the other team is showing that energy that you should be showing. It’s hard to win two sets in a row, especially losing the first set.”
Thompson said he played in several varsity doubles matches his freshman year so he planned on making the varsity lineup from the start.
He said, “I like both (singles and doubles). Both have their advantages. If I had to choose it would probably be doubles. I like the net a lot. It’s just more fun for me. I like having a partner to talk to during the game. I like how sometimes you’re up and sometimes you’re back. My serves are pretty good and I’m pretty good at the net. I’m fast so I get to a lot of balls. That helps out a lot. I like that tennis is outside.”
Davis said Kruse and the doubles teams “came out and knew what they needed to do, they played smart, they were aggressive, and they were patient with their shots.”
Heckman and Jennings’ Parker Bales needed three sets to determine their match at No. 2 singles. Heckman won 6-4, then lost 4-6, 5-7.
Davis said, “Hunter just played defense and waited for (Bales) to kind of mess up on his own and hit it out or into the net, so he was just trying to be patient and play it out.”
Meyer battled a strong opponent in Owen Law at No. 1 singles, and the Panther won 6-0, 6-4.
Davis said, “Law is a great athlete, a great tennis player. He’s got hard hits, his serves are tough to get back. It’s hard to play someone who has great forehands and backhands like that.”
Alberring won a JV singles match against Jennings.
The match with the Highlanders is slated to start at 4:30 p.m. today.