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Sectional Serves

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Connersville No. 1 doubles team of Rylee Fuller, center, and Kelsey Smith, right, talk things over with Connersville assistant coach Bill Wilhoite during a match against Franklin County on April 29. Fuller, Smith and the Lady Spartans open postseason play tonight against that same Franklin County squad.
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Pictured is the 2019 Connersville High School girls tennis team. The Lady Spartans will host the IHSAA Sectional 13 tournament, beginning today at Spartan Courts. In the semifinals, Connersville will face Franklin County and Rushville will play Union County. The two winners will vie for the sectional championship on Friday night.
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Connersville’s Juliette Collins steadies for a return in a match against Batesville at the CHS tennis courts on April 4. Collins will face Franklin County’s Taylor McCreary in the semifinal round of the Sectional 13 tournament, tonight at CHS.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Monday night's Indiana High School Athletic Assocition sectional tennis draw might not have been optimal for Connersville, but the Lady Spartans are ready to run with it.

Their semifinal opponent in in tonight's four-team Sectional 13 field will be the tournament-favorite Lady Wildcats from Franklin County.

Head coach Chris Bloom and his charges are aware of the task ahead of them, as they faced their Brookville neighbors just two weeks ago, and wound up on the wrong end of a 5-0 score.

Still, Bloom says there is reason for optimism.

"They are the favorite, and if we didn't play them now, we would have had to beaten them in the final, anyway," he said. "All of the girls know that they need to do everything they can to flip their results from the last time we faced them, so there are no suprises. We know what we have to do."

Indeed.

In fact, his No. 1 doubles team of Kelsey Smith and Rylee Fuller have already done that.

At the Eastern Indiana Athletic Conference meet on May 9-11, the Connersville duo reached the finals, only to see FC's Allie Routh and Meredith Bohman staring at them from the other side of the net.

A quick start in that match gave the Smith and Fuller a 6-3 win in the first set. After falling in the second (6-1), the CHS tandem rallied to win the tie-break 10-4, picking up the EIAC championship at that position.

Bloom believes that there is a blueprint in that win for the rest of the Spartans to follow, in particular, that fast start part.

"The hope is that we can get off to a quick start," he said. "The girls need to understand that there does not have to be any pressure on us, and that with a fast start, we can put the pressure on them.

"If we can get the Franklin County girls to the point where they are forced to think about their shots, rather than getting comfortable on the court with big leads, we can be successful."

It's a sound strategy, but one that will still be difficult to put into action.

Jayden Rose will play at No. 1 singles, where she will face Lilli Stewart, a 6-0, 6-2 winner in the last meeting between the two.

Juliette Collins will take on Taylor McCreary at No. 2 singles. McCreary won the first tilt by a 6-4, 6-2 score.

At No. 3 singles, Abbigail Stenger will entertain Maggie Brack, a 6-2, 6-0 winner in the first match-up between the two.

The No. 2 CHS doubles team of Grace Silcott and Giovanna Struewing will open serve against Kairee Hodapp and either Alexis Ball or Elise Kiel. Hodapp and Ball defeated Silcott and Struewing 6-1, 6-3 in the former meeting.

"Our girls need to stay loose so that they can execute," Bloom said. "It's important that they don't let the moment get to them."

In the other semifinal, Union County will take on Rushville. Connersville defeated both teams in the regular season by identical 4-1 scores.

The Lady Patriots will have Lindsay Lang (No. 1), Maddie Gaebel (2), and Anna Buckler (3) on the singles courts against the Lady Lions.

Playing at doubles for UC will be the tandem of Amanda Jahosky and Ryleigh Hollen at No. 1, and the duo of Ella Reis and Kylie Hetzer taking shots on the No. 2 court.

Tonight's winners will return to the Connersville High School courts on Friday night to vie for the sectional championship.

The sectional champion will advance to the regional meet, next week in Richmond.

Tonight's semifinal matches are set for a 5 p.m. first serve. The Connersville/Franklin County match will take place on one end of the tennis facility, and the Union County/Rushville tilt will be featured on the other.

The matches will begin with the No. 2 singles, No. 3 singles and No. 2 doubles teams playing. No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles contests will fill in as courts become available.

Admission to the event is free.