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Tennis title ... times two

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The Connersville High School boys tennis team holds the 2019 Indiana High School Athletic Association sectional championship trophy, following a 4-1 victory over Rushville in Saturday’s championship match. The sectional crown is CHS’ second straight. Holding the sectional trophy are seniors Gavin Parsley, left, and Dylan Bennington.
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Connersville junior Jonah Graham issues a forehand return against Rushville’s Marlin Hershberger in No. 2 singles action at the IHSAA sectional championship, Saturday at the CHS courts. Graham defeated Hershberger in the match, and it was his team point that clinched the championship for the Spartans.

By GRADY TATE - gtate@newsexaminer.com

Saturday’s Indiana High School Athletic Association boys sectional tennis championship match with Rushville was supposed to be a white-knuckle, point-for-point, wide open affair.

By the time the five matches had recorded scores from their first sets, however, the writing was already on the wall.

In four of the five tilts being played to determine the postseason champion, Connersville grabbed somewhat easy wins early on.

The rest, as they say, was history.

Adding to those successful early scores, the Spartans came away with a 4-1 win over the Lions, claiming their second straight state-shaped trophy.

“It was a great day. I was impressed with how strong of a start our boys got off to today,” Connersville head coach Chris Bloom said. “They got after it quickly, which gave all five spots a chance to win. That put a lot of pressure on Rushville early.”

On the singles courts, Gavin Parsley opened fast over Jacob Carroll (6-3), and Jonah Graham rushed out to a 6-2 win over Marlin Hershberger. No. 3 player Gage Brown fell short in his dual with Sam Smith, the Connersville sophomore on the wrong end of a 6-3, 6-4 result.

Both Connersville doubles teams were also off and running, Sebastian Burch and Seth Spurlock jumping on Braiden Hunter and Cameron Jackman (6-4) at No. 1, and the No. 2 duo of Dylan Bennington and Dustin McCarrell earning a 6-1 decision.

All four winners went on to make it straight-set wins, the most dominant at No. 2 doubles, as Bennington and McCarrell duplicated their first win with another 6-1 result.

“I thought this was a team effort, but our No. 1 doubles team did a great job,” Bloom said. “We kept telling them all along that they were capable of flipping that point if they came out aggressive. That is precisely what they did.”

Pretty much the only drama throughout the second set occurred at No. 2 doubles, as Hunter and Jackman rallied in the second set, before falling 7-5.

“You always want to close a match early if you have the chance to, but I was still very proud of Sebastian and Seth for keeping the pressure on, once the match got to 5-5,” Bloom said of his top tandem. “They closed it out from there and earned the win.”

The second straight sectional crown was a nice prize for the two seniors — Parsley and Bennington — playing for the team.

“They were the first two freshmen that I had in the program when I first got here,” Bloom said. “We have continued to see improvement from them, so it was great for them to get this. We have come so far from being that three-win team during their first year.

“Winning back-to-back sectional titles is nothing short of their work ethic and their desire to be successful.”

Connersville will travel to Richmond for the 2019 regional, set for a first serve tonight at 4:30 p.m.

The Spartans will play the host Red Devils, a team they are familiar with.

“We’re going to face Richmond, who beat us 4-1 during the regular season,” Bloom pointed out. “But their line-up has changed since that match, so we’re just going to go there and play good tennis and chase them.

“I think, if we can put some pressure on them, the way we did today, we will have a chance.”

Also playing at the regional tonight will be a pair of individual qualifiers from Franklin County.

No. 1 singles player Jack Stirn earned a trip to the regional via a 6-1, 6-1 win over Parsley from CHS in the semifinal round of the sectional on Thursday.

The No. 1 doubles team of Kurt Oetzel and Lonnie Schwartz will also be on the court tonight, courtesy of a sectional semifinal win over Connersville’s Burch and Spurlock.





(at Connersville High School)


No. 1 — Gavin Parsley (CHS) defeated Jacob Carroll (RHS) 6-3, 6-4

No. 2 — Jonah Graham (CHS) defeated Marlin Hershberger (RHS) 6-2, 6-3

No. 3 — Gage Brown (CHS) lost to Sam Smith (RHS) 6-3, 6-4


No. 1 — Sebastian Burch and Seth Spurlock (CHS) defeated Braiden Hunter and Cameron Jackman (RHS) 6-4, 7-5

No. 2 — Dylan Bennington and Dustin McCarrell (CHS) defeated Bryce Berkemeier and Alex Wainwright (RHS) 6-1, 6-1