By Dave Pearce
No matter how long North Posey High School exists, this year’s Lady Viking tennis team did something that no other tennis team will ever be able to lay claim to. They are the first girls’ team ever to win a sectional tennis championship at North Posey.
Granted, North Posey’s regional match-up included perhaps the state’s best and No. 1-ranked team (in a sport without a class system). The regional also included the Pocket Athletic Conference champion Gibson Southern Titans, whose 16-1 record meant that the top two teams in the regional had a combined record of 46-1.
So what did that mean for Coach Brandon Barrett’s 12-6 squad going into the regional.
“I just told them that no matter what, they had done something that no other North Posey team had ever done,” Barrett said. “So just go out and play loose and enjoy the opportunity.”
But the sectional championship was not by accident. Ironically, it comes in Barrett’s fourth year of coaching the sport he loves.
“My first year of coaching we were 6-9 and by second year we were 13-4 and this year we were 12-6 in the regular season,” Barrett explained. “To get 25 wins in two years, that’s really saying something about the girls and the program and hopefully, that is where we are headed in the future.”
If the coach’s efforts and hard work pay off, the tennis program has a bright future.
“Hopefully we can build on that,” Barrett said. “I told the girls tonight that now when they come back to North Posey’s gym, they can look up at the banner and see where the team in 2012 won the first sectional. But we really wanted to win tonight so we could advance and play the No. 1 team in the state but that didn’t happen.”
Cory Titzer of Gibson Southern defeated Shelby Ackerman at No. 1 singles by a score of 6-1, 6-0. At, No. 2 singles, Alyssa Goedde defeated Natalie Thomas by a score of 6-4, 6-2. At No. 3 singles, Haylee Decker of Gibson Southern defeated Bri Brown by a score of 3-6, 6-4, 6-4. At No 1 doubles, the senior combination of Wendi Simpson and Kendall Reidford was defeated by Rachel Sensmeier and Alyssa Kiesel by a count of 6-3, 7-5. At No. 2 doubles, Sydney Fenton and Mariah Chamberlain defeated Lindsay Droegge and Megan Durchholz by scores of 6-3, 6-3.
So did this come as a surprise to the coach?
“Actually, no,” Barrett said. “Since day one this year, even the girls have brought this up, that the day after the call-out meeting I told them that with the talent we have, which is the best I have ever had, I knew we had something special going and I knew that we could win the sectional. We have said that throughout the season. This is the first time I have had a team hit their stride at just the right time.”
But in order to do so, the Vikings would have to come back and beat the defending sectional Mater Dei Wildcats, a team that had defeated the Lady Vikings with relative ease in the regular season. The Vikings’ No. 1 doubles team lost in straight sets and the only win on the night came at No. 2 doubles. But this time, it was for real.
Barrett said some changes he made during the regular season were either going to make him look like a genius or a fool. He split up a doubles team that had been playing No. 1 doubles for four years.
“I split up Wendi and Kendall for five matches,” Barrett said. “I did it for two reasons. They had played all that time together and they had been struggling for two or three matches in a row. I switched them just to give them a break so they could be fresh for the final run and I just wanted to see how we played with a different line-up.”
Using the same girls, Barrett settled Brown at No. 3 singles and switched her with Megan Durchholz who went to No. 2 doubles.
“It worked out just perfect,” Barrett said. “Actually, the line-up we used the last two weeks and in the sectional was the line-up I had put together for the very first match of the year. I switched it at match 2 and went with that line-up for a good ten matches. Then, we went back to the original line-up and that worked out.”
But Barrett said even the sectional draw favored the Vikings. He wanted to stay away from Mount Vernon, a team that had defeated the Lady Vikings just three weeks ago by sweeping all three singles spots. But Mater Dei eliminated Mount Vernon and the Lady Vikings defeated Evansville Central.
“Going into the final, we hadn’t beaten Mater Dei in three years but I knew we had a shot,” Barrett said. “I thought we might sneak out a win in singles and Bri Brown came through at No. 3 singles. Two of the biggest upsets I have seen as a coach was us beating Mater Dei and then Bri Brown winning at No. 3 singles. She played a girl who has played singles all her career. She played No. 2 singles all last year and this year played three singles all year. Bri had played maybe seven singles matches. Bri won that first set in a tie-break and then wins the second set 6-1. Who would have thought.”
Barrett will have to replace four seniors come next season but the setback in the regional has only strengthened Barrett’s resolve to his team and the program.
“The program is on the up,” Barrett said. “I have had 21 girls playing this year and I think we can plug some of these girls in and compete. And our jayvee team has lost only one match in the past two years (24-1) and that says something about the jayvee program.”
“Chris Clements at Mater Dei is one of the nicest people you will ever meet and I saw what she was doing with her feeder programs,” Barrett said. “I knew I had to get the camps going in the summer and get a little interest as fourth graders and then get them into the middle school program as sixth graders. Once they get to jayvee because by the time they get here, they know what to expect so now instead of getting freshmen that are raw and have never played, I am starting to see them coming in knowing how to hit the ball and when they come in at jayvee, they already know what they are doing and we can go out there and get some work done instead of just teaching them how to hit the ball.”
Barrett says he sees nothing but blue skies for the future of North Posey tennis. After all, it had to start somewhere and now it has!