30 Years of Sectional Titles

Posted on October 11, 2022 in Uncategorized.

On the sunny, 77-degree afternoon of Friday, Oct. 23, 1992, the boys’ tennis teams from Delta and Union City high schools were locked at two matches apiece in the championship round of the Yorktown Sectional. Union City fielded an athletic lineup of six seniors and a sophomore while Delta, under 29-year-old head coach Tim Cleland, featured three sophomores and a freshman among its seven varsity players. The experience difference tilted the match in favor of Union City. The Indians won a three-set result on the final court to claim a 3-2 sectional victory.

In the disappointment on the Delta side, no one had a clue that the Eagles would not lose another sectional match for the next 30 years — and counting!

On Saturday, Oct. 1, 2022, the Eagles shut out Yorktown 5-0 to gain their 30th consecutive sectional title. Here’s a year-by-year history lesson looking back at the streak, all of the Delta lineups, and some interesting tidbits about those teams.

1993 — Delta beat Winchester 5-0 in the semifinals and topped Yorktown 4-1 in the finals to start the sectional streak in Coach Cleland’s fourth year as coach. His 1991 team had won the sectional before the loss in the 1992 finals. Ironically, Union City’s lone sophomore from 1992, David Byrum, had transferred to Yorktown and was the Tigers’ No. 1 player. Delta featured an all-underclass lineup of Bob Darby, Tommy Rector and Alex Nahvi in singles, and Clayton Westerfeld/Matt Kolb and Jeremiah Cooper/Nathan Jackson in doubles. Darby would go on to be All-State Singles and then play tennis at Purdue University and eventually return to coach Yorktown. His teams have tried multiple times to end the streak he helped to start. After the 1993 sectional title, the Eagles lost 0-5 to Anderson in the opening round of the regional at Ball State’s Cardinal Creek Tennis Center.

1994 — The next year the Eagles cracked the state rankings for the first time ever as they put together an undefeated regular season. They rolled through the sectional, beating Union City 5-0 and Winchester 5-0 without losing a set. The lineup was Bob Darby, Tommy Rector and freshman Andy Rector in singles, and Clayton Westerfeld/Jeremiah Cooper and Matt Kolb/Alex Nahvi in doubles. Andy Rector would go on to become one of the Eagles’ all-time best players and would eventually play at Ball State. After winning the sectional, the 18th-ranked Eagles were upended in the regional by Muncie Central 3-2 on Oct. 15, 1994. This is the last time Delta has lost to any team from Delaware County.

1995 — Delta put together another unbeaten regular season in 1995 but entered the sectional without No. 2 singles player Andy Rector, who was out with a back injury. The Eagles survived 3-2 over Union City in the sectional opener, the beat Yorktown 4-1 in the finals. They then claimed their first-ever regional title by edging a Frankton team with two foreign-exchange students 3-2 and then winning three three-set matches to beat Elwood in the finals. They then beat Batesville in the opening round of the Homestead Semi-State before losing to Homestead in the finals. The singles lineup was Bob Darby, Andy Rector and Aaron Parris, with the doubles teams of Alex Nahvi/Nathan Calvert and Greg Kile/Rob Robbins. Kile is currently the superintendent of schools at Delaware Community Schools. Parris, Calvert and Robbins all would be key members of Delta’s 1997 basketball team that would finish as State Runner-Up in the final year of single-class basketball in Indiana.

1996 — The Eagles cracked the Top 10 rankings for the first time. They beat Winchester 4-1 in the sectional semifinals and then topped Yorktown 4-1 in the finals. They continued with 4-1 wins over Bellmont and Muncie Central in the regional to improve to 19-1. The Eagles then beat Batesville 3-2 in the semistate before falling 3-2 to fifth-ranked Homestead in the semistate finals in a tight match. The singles lineup was Andy Rector, exchange student Arnd Viehofer, and Aaron Parris, with the doubles teams of Rob Robbins/Nathan Calvert and Greg Kile and a rotation of Chris McKnight and Josh Cooper. Viehofer, from Germany, is one of only two full-time varsity exchange students Delta has had during the 30-year streak.

1997 — Again ranked in the Top 10, the 1997 Eagles entered sectional play with a 16-1 record and shut out Yorktown 5-0 and Winchester 5-0 for their fifth straight sectional title. They went on to reach the semistate finals again before losing a 3-2 heartbreaker again to fifth-ranked Homestead. Senior Andy Rector, playing in a back brace, lost 4-6, 4-6 at No. 1 singles to Homestead senior Rick Phillipp, who would go on to win the state singles title and play at Wake Forest University. Rector led 4-3 in both sets, and Phillipp later said it was the toughest match he had on his way to the state title. Delta’s lineup was Rector, Nathan Calvert and Rob Robbins in singles, and Greg Kile/Josh Cooper and Chad Hawk/Justin Overmyer in doubles.

1998 — The eighth-ranked Delta Eagles made it six in a row for sectionals with a 4-1 win over Winchester and a 5-0 victory over Yorktown when rain forced the matches indoors to the Muncie YMCA. Senior Rob Robbins played No. 1 singles and became the first player in DHS Tennis history to be all-state in both doubles and singles. Robbins also was All-State in baseball and All-State and an Indiana All-Star in basketball before going on to play basketball (and baseball briefly) at Ball State University. Michael Bookmyer was at No. 2 singles, with senior Max Burt and freshman Billy Ruxton splitting time at No. 3 singles. The doubles teams were Chad Hawk/Josh Cooper and Justin Overmyer/Kelly Robbins. Overmyer would later become the tennis director at the Muncie YMCA. He and Kelly Robbins, a freshman, went undefeated for the season. The team again won regionals before falling 3-2 to fourth-ranked Homestead in another agonizingly tight semi-state battle. Overmyer’s career varsity record of 48 wins and 2 losses remains the highest career winning percentage for a varsity player in school history.

1999 — The 1999 team went 24-2, reached No. 9 in the state rankings, beat defending state champion Kokomo, and cruised past Union City and Winchester in the sectional without dropping a set. They won regional and beat West Lafayette in the semi-state opener before falling 4-1 to second-ranked Homestead in the semi-state finals. Michael Bookmyer, Billy Ruxton and Kelly Robbins played singles, with Daniel Jackson/Ryan Orr and Adam Jakubiak/Kyle Ferguson in doubles. Jakubiak was an interesting story in that he only got to play in one JV match as a freshman for the entire season … but despite that limited playing time, he hung with it and eventually played varsity doubles on a Top 10 state-ranked team!

2000 — The 2000 team finished 23-2 and lost 3-2 to the state’s top-ranked team, Homestead, in the semistate in another heartbreaker. However, keeping the sectional streak alive was anything but easy. Yorktown featured an outstanding team, also, with eventual Purdue University player Matt Zollman at No. 1 singles and another star player, Gabe Manis, at No. 2 singles. Delta lost the top two positions but won 3-2 and then topped a strong Winchester team 4-1 in the finals for their eighth straight sectional title. The lineup was Billy Ruxton, Kelly Robbins and Michael Bratton in singles, and Ryan Orr/Daniel Jackson at No. 1 doubles with David Bratton, Eric Freeman, Blain Keller and Travis Goebel all sharing time at No. 2 doubles. David Bratton, a senior playing varsity for the first year, finished 16-1, including an upset victory with Eric Freeman over No. 1 Homestead in the semistate that avenged their only loss from the season. David Bratton’s son Riley, a senior, played No. 1 doubles on the current team, continuing the family tradition. Ruxton, Jackson and Orr all would go on to play NCAA Division 1 tennis together at Indiana-Purdue-Fort Wayne.

2001 — The 2001 Eagles again were a Top 10 team and went undefeated for the entire season until losing 3-2 to sixth-ranked West Lafayette in the semistate. After a 5-0 victory over Union City in the sectional opener, the Eagles again edged a strong Yorktown team 3-2 to survive their ninth straight sectional. Senior Billy Ruxton played No. 1 singles. Michael Bratton and Matt McKinney rounded out the singles lineup. The No. 1 doubles team of seniors Kelly Robbins and Daniel Jackson remained unbeaten all the way to the state championship doubles match before losing to Carmel 4-6, 4-6 in the finals at the Five Seasons Country Club in Indianapolis. Jackson was a three-time All-State player in doubles and Robbins was an All-State basketball player also who scored a state-record 38 points to lead the Eagles to the 2002 Class 3A basketball state championship. Patrick Bryan and Blain Keller were unbeaten at No. 2 doubles.

2002 — The 2002 team was one of the greatest in DHS Tennis history. The Eagles reached as high as No. 4 in the state rankings and went unbeaten in the regular season, including a 3-2 victory over Homestead in the regular season when No. 3 singles player Matt McKinney won his match and then ended up in the hospital for dehydration. The team cruised past Union City in the sectional opener and beat Yorktown 4-1 in the finals. This seemed like the year that the Eagles finally would break through and make the State Finals. But unfortunately, right before regional one of the Eagles’ No. 2 doubles players was suspended for his involvement in a school prank that went wrong. The Eagles had been undefeated for the season at the No. 2 doubles position, but they had to sub in sophomore J.D. Greenlee, a JV player who had limited doubles experience. They still won regional and the morning roudn at semi-state, setting up another match with Homestead in the semi-state finals. Sadly, the Eagles lost 3-2 to Homestead in a match that took over four hours and finished indoors due to rain. The final match was No. 2 doubles, where Greenlee and his partner, sophomore Paul McKinney, battled to three sets before losing. The singles lineup was Michael Bratton, Blain Keller (who went on to play D1 tennis at Valparaiso University) and Matt McKinney, with No. 1 doubles of Patrick Bryan/Alan Robinson (who placed third at the state doubles finals).

2003 — J.D. Greenlee, who would go on to play at the University of Indianapolis, jumped all the way from JV to No. 1 singles varsity the next season, where he was a two-time All-State player. Brothers Matt McKinney and Paul McKinney played No. 2 and No. 3 singles. Blain Keller and Bryce Bow were at No. 1 doubles, with Isaac Parris and Ryan Mochal at No. 2 doubles. In the sectional opener, it was a complete whitewash as the Eagles won 6-0, 6-0 in every position over Union City. They added a 5-0 victory over Yorktown in the next round for the 11th straight sectional. The sixth-ranked Eagles added shutouts over Anderson and Huntington North in the regional before losing another gut-wrencher, 3-2, to their nemesis Homestead in the semistate. Again, it was a tantalizing loss as the Eagles lost tiebreakers at two of the singles positions and lost in three sets at No. 2 doubles.

2004 — If at first you don’t succeed, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try, try again. In its 10th trip to the semi-state, Delta finally solved the semi-state curse by winning and advancing to the state final four for the first time in 2004. The addition of freshman star Zach Ervin made the team amazing as All-State singles player J.D. Greenlee moved to No. 2 singles. Senior Paul McKinney, who could have played No. 1 singles for several top 20 teams, played No. 3 singles! Bryce Bow, who went on to play basketball at Goshen College, and Drew DeHaven were at No, 1 doubles, with Ryan Mochal and another star freshman, Dan Klingenberg, at No. 2 doubles, along with part-time varsity player Jared Burt. Ervin, the program’s all-time victory leader with 101 wins, would go to play at Butler University. Klingenberg, the No. 3 all-time winner with 91 wins, would go on to play at IUPUI. McKinney also racked up 74 career carsity wins and Greenlee finished with 64 career wins. This team was loaded! The Eagles wrapped up another sectional, 5-0 over Burris and 4-1 over a strong Alexandria team that had only one loss for the season. On a perfect, 70-degree day at semi-state, the Eagles routed Kokomo in the morning, then beat 8th-ranked West Lafayette 4-1 in the finals to advance to the State Final Four. The weather was much different the next week as temperatures were in the 40s and the wind was brutal for a match against No. 1 and defending state champ Carmel, which was on a 42-match winning streak. DeHaven and Bow won at No. 1 doubles, and Mochal and Klingenberg lost in three sets at No. 2 doubles. In addition, Ervin and Greenlee each had a 4-6 opening set as the Eagles put a major scare into Carmel before falling 4-1. Delta then beat Terre Haute North 3-2 for third place and finished No. 3 in the final rankings. It was the first of what would eventually be five trips to the IHSAA State Finals.

2005 — Despite graduating Greenlee, McKinney, Bow, DeHaven, Mochal and Burt from the state finalist team, the Eagles reloaded and finished 22-2 and won their 13th straight sectional with victories over Alexandria 5-0 and Yorktown 4-1. It was the Eagles’ 25th straight win over Yorktown. The team added its 11th straight regional title before falling 4-1 to 10th-ranked West Lafayette in the semi-state as Delta dropped two three-setters. The lineup was Zach Ervin, Josh Chambers and Austin Anderson in singles, and Drew DeHaven/Steve Hopkins and Dan Klingenberg/Carl Cardini in doubles.

2006 — The 2006 regular season featured some interesting achievements. At midseason, Delta knocked off 7th-ranked Homestead 3-2 as the No. 2 doubles team Zac Bow and Joseph Taylor won 6-7, 7-6, (11-9) and survived an incredible 11 match points to win the final match. Also in the regular season the Eagles beat 18th-ranked Brownsburg 4-1 as Zach Ervin beat future Butler University and Boston Celtics basketball star Gordon Hayward at No. 1 singles. In fact, Hayward played four straight years on the Delta courts in the Eagles’ invitational and has an 0-4 record to show for it, losing as a freshman to Bryce Bow and Drew DeHaven at No. 1 doubles and then losing three straight years at No. 1 singles to Ervin, his future college friend at Butler. The Eagles hosted the sectional for the first time and beat Yorktown 4-1 and Alexandria 5-0. After winning another regional title, the team shut out 19th-ranked Kokomo 5-0 in the semi-state opener, but then came up short 4-1 to Homestead in the finals as the Eagles lost two three-setters. Zach Ervin advanced to the individual State Singles Finals and placed fourth despite playing on a sprained ankle suffered in practice the day before state. The 2006 lineup was Ervin, Josh Chambers and exchange student Rafael Garcia in singles, and Dan Klingenberg-Jeff Price and Zac Bow-Joseph Taylor in doubles.

2007 — The 2007 Eagles are in the discussion with the 2004 team as the greatest team in DHS Tennis history, although the 2007 season ended in disappointment. The Eagles spent all year in the Top 10 rankings and lost only once in the regular season. This was a 3-2 loss at No. 1 ranked Indianapolis North Central when the Eagles won at No. 1 singles (Zach Ervin) and at No. 1 doubles (Dan Klingenberg and Jeff Price) while losing in three sets at No, 2 doubles (Alex Wagner and Carl Cardini). In the sectional, the Eagles topped Yorktown and Burris easily for 15 in a row. After winning regional easily as well, the Eagles advanced to the semi-state with high hopes. But an unusually hot 85-degree day on Saturday, Oct. 6, 2007 would prove disastrous for the squad. A morning match against 10th-ranked and unbeaten Westview proved to be a grind with many long and grueling points, but the sixth-ranked Eagles won 4-1. Fourth-ranked Zionsville awaited in the semi-state finals. Ervin, who was the favorite to win the state singles title, suffered severe cramps for the first time in his long tennis career and had to retire early in the third set. The shaken Eagles lost 4-1 as a team. Ervin spent 21 hours in the hospital and received five bags of IV fluids to recover. Senior doubles players Dan Klingenberg and Jeff Price won their match and went on to finish as State Doubles Runners-Up, losing a tight match to Center Grove in the finals. In addition to Ervin and Klingenberg playing D1 tennis, Price went on to play at the University of Indianapolis. The Eagles made a legitimate run at the State Singles, State Doubles and State Team championships in the same year, but it didn’t work out. The rest of the lineup was Joseph Taylor at No, 2 singles, freshman and future Ball State player Ben Bryan at No. 3 singles, and Carl Cardini/Alex Wagner at No. 2 doubles.

2008 — With the Eagles in rebuilding mode the following season, the sectional streak almost ended in 2008. Sophomore Ben Bryan was at No. 1 singles, but the rest of the lineup featured new first-year varsity players, including two sophomores and a freshman. Sophomore Jordan Chambers played No. 2 singles, senior Caleb Austin was at No. 3, sophomore Tate Dishman and freshman Ethan Grove at No. 1 doubles, and seniors John Rauchenstein and Jared Bullock at No. 2 doubles. The team went 12-7 in the regular season and was unranked. After a 5-0 victory over Alexandria in the sectional opener, they faced an experienced Burris team that was determined to end the streak. With the match tied at 2-2, it came down to No. 3 singles on the court that is now closest to the shelter house. Caleb Austin trailed 3-5 in the final set and then trailed 5-6, 0-30 — just two points from elimination. Burris players could barely contain their excitement on the sidelines as they anticipated the end to the long streak. But Austin hung tough under intense pressure and won 7-6, 2-6, 7-6 for the team’s 16th straight sectional title. A few days later in the regional final against Anderson, Caleb Austin was again the hero by winning the last match for a 3-2 victory with everyone watching long into the night. This time he won 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 over Anderson’s Brett Ellis. This was the team’s 12th straight regional title and they celebrated in a highly unusual way. Similar to a basketball celebration, they cut down the net on Caleb Austin’s court, with each player taking home a snippet of the net as a souvenir. The celebration cost $150 for a new net but was well worth it!

2009 — The 2009 Eagles featured an all-underclass varsity lineup of five juniors and two sophomores. The team beat Yorktown 5-0 and Burris 4-1 to secure sectional title No. 17 in a row. All-State Singles player Ben Bryan reached the State Singles tournament. The rest of the lineup was Jordan Chambers at No. 2 singles with Bond St. John and Youngwoo Han splitting time at No. 3 singles. Future assistant coach Tate Dishman again played No. 1 doubles with Ethan Grove, and they finished with an 18-9 record, including five straight three-set wins in the second half of the season. Brock Windsor and Zach Richardson played No. 2 doubles. The Eagles won regional again before falling to Zionsville in the semistate.

2010 — The rebuilding process of the previous two years paid off in 2010 as the team reached the IHSAA State Finals for the second time in boys’ tennis history. With senior Ben Bryan again putting together an All-State season and reaching the State Singles finals, the Eagles finished 20-5 and were ranked 14th in the state. Senior Tate Dishman and junior Ethan Grove were All-State Doubles and finished 23-4 with wins over Jasper and Homestead. Dishman went on to play at the University of St. Francis and Grove went on to play at Grace College. The Eagles beat Burris and Yorktown without losing a set in sectionals. Victories over Muncie Central and Norwell gave the team their 16th straight regional title (the streak would end the next season). The team then beat 25th-ranked Marion in the semi-state before losing 3-2 to 8th-ranked Munster in the opening round of state finals at Park Tudor High School. Youngwoo Han and Bond St. John rounded out the singles lineup, and Zach Richardson/Jordan Chambers were an outstanding No. 2 doubles team with a 21-1 record. Richardson went on to play at Trine University.

2011 — After graduating five varsity seniors the previous season, it seemed the 2011 season would be another rebuild. Instead, the Eagles simply reloaded. Freshman Jay Robillard, sophomores Bradley Wuthrich and Alec St. John, and junior Evan Rodenberger emerged as standouts, helping the Eagles to a 16-3 regular-season record and a No. 22 state ranking. The team dominated Yorktown and Muncie Central in the sectional, dropping only 17 games total in the two matches. But the long regional streak snapped as 14th-ranked Marion won 4-1 with only Ethan Grove and Evan Rodenberger winning at No. 1 doubles. Grove and Rodenberger eventually placed third at state with a record of 28-3. Bond St. John, Bradley Wuthrich and Austin Lemna made up the singles lineup, and Alec St. John and Jay Robillard played No. 2 doubles.

2012 — Both Muncie Central and Yorktown were building solid teams with some talented young players. Ian Landwehr, who would go on to become the winningest singles player in IHSAA tennis history with 105 career wins in four years at No. 1 singles, was a freshman at Yorktown. Sophomores Andrew Fox and Drake Clohessy were anchoring a Muncie Central team that would also welcome freshman Khamasi Muhiga the next season. But Delta also was loaded with young talent as sophomore Nick Wilson emerged at No. 1 doubles, where he would be a three-time All-State player, and eighth-grader Alec Robillard was waiting in the wings to join a team that included juniors Bradley Wuthrich, Alec St. John and Jordan Fenwick in singles and sophomore Jay Robillard at No. 2 doubles with junior Collin Mercer. The team’s lone senior, Evan Rodenberger, pulled off a rare trifecta as he was All-State Doubles First Team, Academic All-State First Team, and Indiana All-Star. The Eagles swept Muncie Central in the sectional semifinals, then clinched their 20th straight title with a 4-1 victory over Yorktown (only Landwehr won). The Eagles added a regional title before losing to 4th-ranked Indianapolis North Central in the semi-state in what was the final match ever played at the old Homestead HS tennis complex, the scene of numerous dramatic losses for the Eagles in the previous 20 years.

2013 — The 2013 season resulted in a trip to the IHSAA Team State Finals, something the team would do three times in a four-year span between 2013 and 2016. After an 18-1 regular season and a No. 8 state ranking, the Eagles had to win three matches to win sectional. They drew Muncie Southside first and won every match 6-0, 6-0. In the semfinals, the Eagles soared past Yorktown 4-1, with Landwehr winning a tough 6-4, 6-3 battle at No. 1 singles over senior Alec St. John. Delta then clinched its 21st straight sectional by shutting out a Muncie Central squad that entered with an 18-4 record. Joining St. John in singles were fellow seniors Bradley Wuthrich and Jordan Fenwick. Juniors Jay Robillard and Nick Wilson formed an All-State doubles team, and senior Collin Mercer played No. 2 doubles with talented sophomore Jack Sanders. Mercer and Sanders were regional heroes as their three-set win led to a 3-2 victory over 25th-ranked Marion. The Eagles beat Concord in the semi-state but then were blown out by No. 1 Carmel in the opening round of state. Future Ball State player Alec Robillard was on this team as a freshman, but he played JV due to his size of about 5-foot-2 and 95 pounds. His results were anything but small, though, as he went 19-1 at JV singles.

2014 — In addition to Alec Robillard, the 2014 version of the Eagles featured a couple of other newcomers to the varsity lineup. Junior Joe Wegener, who had played JV the previous season, skyrocketed all the way to No. 1 singles. Just behind him at No. 2 singles was his freshman brother, Jason Wegener. Alec Robillard played No. 3 singles. This enabled seniors Jay Robillard and Nick Wilson to play No. 1 doubles, and they were amazing. They won 28 straight matches without losing a set before falling 7-6, 6-3 to 2nd-ranked Indianapolis North Central in the Team State Final Four. Matt Hapner, Jacob Brewer and Nick Bantz split time at No. 2 doubles. The Eagles beat Burris in the opening round of the sectional and lost only one game in the entire match. Yorktown was the victim in the finals by a 4-1 score (Landwehr won again and two other matches were close). In the regional finals, Delta edged Marion 3-2. A victory over East Noble sent the team to state again, where they beat Culver Military Academy 4-1 to advance to the Final Four. This started the Delta-Culver relationship, which now annually features a match at Culver Academies. With a 25-0 record, Delta battled eventual state champion North Central in the Final Four and put a scare into the Panthers before losing 5-0. Joe Wegener lost 7-5, 7-5 at No. 1 singles, and as mentioned above, Jay Robillard and Nick Wilson fell 7-6, 6-3 at No. 1 doubles.

2015 — For the 2015 season, junior Alec Robillard came into his own, ascending to No. 1 singles and winning 20 matches as well as taking Yorktown senior star Ian Landwehr to three sets in a regular-season match. With Joe Wegener at No. 2 singles and Jason Wegener at No. 3 singles, the Eagles could compete with nearly anyone. They finished the regular season at 18-1, then beat Central 5-0 and Yorktown 4-1 to win the 23rd straight sectional. In the sectional, it was the No. 1 doubles team of Matt Hapner and Jacob Brewer that stole the spotlight. Muncie Central moved star player Khamasi Muhiga to No. 1 doubles to try to advance him in the individual tournament, but Hapner/Brewer won 7-5, 6-4. Then in the finals, Yorktown seniors Mitch Minniear and Abe Rosenthall entered with a 23-0 record at No. 1 doubles. Minniear and Rosenthall roared to a 6-0 victory in the first set, but Hapner and Brewer regrouped and won the second set in a tiebreaker. Hapner and Brewer continued the momentum in the final set and cruised to a 6-1 win. Delta went on to beat a very strong Lapel team 4-1 in the regional finals, with Hapner and Brewer again winning a tough match. Delta also won at No. 2 doubles, where senior Nick Bantz and freshman Tannon Dishman emerged as partners at midseason and finished 12-0 together before losing to second-ranked North Central in the semistate. Delta lost 4-1 to North Central, with Jason Wegener winning at No. 3 singles. This set the stage for another return trip to the Team State Finals the next season.

2016 — The 2016 team featured a murderer’s row in singles with senior Alec Robillard, junior Jason Wegener and sophomore Tannon Dishman filling those positions. Combined, they would amass 240 career varsity wins — 69 for Alec, 93 for Jason, and 78 for Tannon. All would play tennis in college, with Alec at Ball State (where he now serves as a graduate assistant coach), Jason in California at Westmont College, and Tannon at the University of St. Francis. The doubles lineup was Joel Ashman and Jonah Haley at No. 1 and Parker Robillard and Michael Morris at No. 2. The team limited Burris to two total games in the sectional opener, then shut out Muncie Central in the sectional finals. The highlight came at No. 1 singles, where seniors and future Ball State teammates Alec Robillard and Khamasi Muhiga went head to head. Robillard won 6-3, 6-4, preventing Muhiga from ever advancing out of the sectional. In the regional opener, the Eagles beat Mississinewa 5-0. Jason Wegener, who was undefeated for the season, survived a scare against Ole Miss standout Jerod May (who now coaches Mississinewa). Jason trailed 0-4 in the third set but rallied for a 7-6 win. The regional final against Lapel was also a tough battle against a 20-win team, with every match except No. 2 doubles close, but Delta won 5-0. Undefeated Fairfield brought a 24-0 record into the semi-state, and Delta won 3-2 to advance to the State Finals for the fifth time. This earned the team a match against No. 1 Carmel on the Carmel home courts. The Eagles came to play, with seven of the 10 sets being 6-3 or closer. The highlight was at No. 1 singles, where Alec Robillard fell 4-6, 6-7 to Carmel’s unbeaten Patrick Fletchall, who went on to win the State Singles title and eventually played at Indiana University.

2017 — Once again it was time to reload for the Eagles. Jason Wegener moved up to No. 1 singles for his senior season, and juniors Tannon Dishman/Joel Ashman formed a strong team at No. 1 doubles. Junior Ben Bamidele and freshman Tanner Southerland joined the singles lineup, and sophomore Mason Knight and freshman Michael Curtis played No. 2 doubles. Another standout freshman, Brandon Jackson, suffered a broken collarbone prior to the season and was unable to return until late in the season. The team routed Muncie Central and Muncie Burris to win their 25th straight sectional. The team gutted out a regional title as the Eagles edged 29th-ranked Lapel 3-2 in the opener and then 28tjh-ranked Marion 3-2 in the finals. Jason Wegener was a hero by beating Lapel senior Joseph Conrad (who was 23-0) in a tight 7-6, 6-3 match, and then beating Marion senior Riley Worland, another star player, 6-2, 6-3 in the finals. Mason Knight and Michael Curtis also survived a three-setter against Lapel. Fourth-ranked Homestead awaited Delta in the semi-state. Brandon Jackson returned to the lineup, teaming with Curtis at No. 2 doubles. They lost 4-6 in the third set. Dishman and Ashman also lost 4-6 in the third set at No. 1 doubles. Wegener dropped a 4-6, 2-6 decision at No. 1 singles, ending his career with 93 career wins, second in school history. Ironically, with freshman Brandon Jackson returning from a broken collarbone, his close friend, freshman Tanner Southerland, was about to join him. The day before semi-state Tanner broke his collarbone in phys ed class, necessitating Caleb Gillis to sub in at singles for the semi-state.

2018 — Tannon Dishman moved into No. 1 singles for his senior season. He would finish the season with 22 wins, including 19 sets of 6-0 without losing any sets 0-6. As a result, he joined Rob Robbins as the only players in school history to be All-State in both singles and doubles. Ben Bamidele played No. 2 singles and Tanner Southerland was at No. 3. Brandon Jackson and Joel Ashman were at No. 1 doubles, with Michael Curtis and Mason Knight at No. 2 doubles. The team swept Yorktown and Burris 5-0 in sectional play for the 26th straight title. The championship match also represented Coach Cleland’s 1000th career victory between boys’ and girls’ tennis. The 16th-ranked Eagles beat 29th-ranked Marion 4-1 in the regional opener and then swept Lapel 5-0 in the finals. The highlight in that match was Tannon’s 7-6, 6-0 victory over Lapel’s Jesse McCurdy, who had been unbeaten his entire sophomore and junior seasons before losing that match. The reward was a semi-state match against third-ranked Indianapolis North Central. Played indoors due to weather, the Eagles lost 5-0 although Ben Bamidele battled North Central’s Ajay Mahenthiran before losing 6-7, 2-6. Mahenthiran would win the State Singles title two years later. Michael Curtis and Mason Knight played a tough match at No. 2 doubles, losing 3-6, 4-6. Despite the loss, the season was not over! A rainout against conference rival Mt. Vernon still needed to be made up to determine the conference championship. So 11 days later on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018, the teams met at Mt. Vernon for a showdown between the 19-4 Eagles and the 16-2 Marauders. Delta won 5-0, giving up just 12 games total in the five positions. Michael Curtis won 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles with Mason Knight. Curtis, a sophomore, racked up his 41st career varsity win in just two seasons and seemed destined to be one of the Eagles’ all-time victory leaders. But unfortunately it would be his final varsity match in Indiana. His father, an assistant football coach at Ball State, was fired a couple of months later, and the family moved back to Louisiana.

2019 — The losses of Dishman, Ashman, Bamidele and Curtis meant the Eagles would again have to rebuild. Tanner Southerland moved up to No. 1 singles. Doubles standout Brandon Jackson had to move into No. 2 singles. First-year varsity senior Daniel Vencel filled the No. 3 singles slot, giving the Eagles the Tan-Bran-Dan three-headed singles lineup. Mason Knight and fellow senior Cade Brown played No. 1 doubles, and senior Jaigen Glaze teamed with sophomore Walker Boyle at No. 2 doubles. Despite the inexperience, the Eagles went 16-3 in the regular season and gained a 23rd state ranking. They beat Yorktown 5-0 in the sectional opener and then topped Burris 4-1 in the finals (freshman Charlie Behrman beat Tanner in three sets in the sectional, reversing a three-set win for Tanner earlier in the season.) This was the 27th straight sectional title. The opening round of regional went well as the Eagles beat Winchester 5-0 in a match that took a total of 45 minutes. But 29th-ranked Marion eliminated Delta 3-2 in the regional finals by sweeping singles, snapping a 7-year regional winning streak.

2020 — The 2020 season took place during the Covid-19 pandemic and featured a lot of adversity. First, in the summer workouts, senior Josef Zacek became the third member of his class to break his collarbone (joining Brandon Jackson and Tanner Southerland). Zacek would start the season at JV before working his way into varsity No. 2 singles. In addition, Covid quarantines would limit junior Walker Boyle to just 12 regular-season matches at No. 1 doubles. Freshman Dalton Royal filled in admirably, teaming with Jackson to win 9 of 10 matches. Eventually, Jackson and Boyle would return to their position and go on a run all the way to the Doubles State Championship match, where they would fall to Carmel. In addition to multiple quarantines, Boyle also overcame a sliced finger on his racket hand from a Career Center accident. Senior Tanner Southerland played No. 1 singles, with Zacek at No. 2 and junior Adam Altobella at No. 3 singles in his first season on varsity after making huge off-season improvement. The No. 2 doubles team was seniors Jordan Ashton and Riley Windsor, each playing their first full season at varsity. The Eagles won sectional by beating Yorktown 5-0 and Burris 4-1 (Behrman won at No. 1 singles). The team then reclaimed the Marion regional title with a 3-2 victory over Marion and a 5-0 win over Lapel. The key position against Marion was No. 3 singles, where Altobella came through under pressure to win win 6-2, 7-5 for his 18th victory of the season. The Eagles then dropped a 4-1 decision to third-ranked Indianapolis North Central in the semi-state but played perhaps their best match of the season. Jackson and Boyle won at No, 1 doubles in three sets to move on to the state finals. Ashton and Windsor extended their match to three sets at No. 2 doubles before losing. Southerland battled Ajay Mahenthiran at No. 1 singles in a 2-6, 4-6 loss. Two weeks later, Mahenthiran would win the State Singles title. Zacek lost 2-6, 1-6 to Alex Antonopoulis (who would be the 2021 State Singles runner-up), while Altobella lost at No. 3 singles 0-6, 1-6 to Marguis Willingham, the current No. 1 singles player for North Central.

2021 — With only two full-time varsity returnees in Walker Boyle and Adam Altobella, the task of rebuilding was once again assigned to the Delta Eagles. Sophomore Dalton Royal’s experience from the previous season filling in for Walker Boyle was helpful. And newcomers to the varsity included juniors Owen Vest and Riley Bratton, seniors Eli Arnold, Mason Wrisley Landon Freiburger and Aidan Landis, and sophomore Preston Shanayda. It took awhile for the lineup to shake itself out, but for the postseason the order was Altobella, Vest and Arnold in singles, and Boyle/Royal at No. 1 doubles with Wrisley/Freiburger at No. 2. The Eagles swept Yorktown 5-0 in the opener, then got pushed hard by Burris in the sectional finals in a match moved indoors to the YMCA by weather. Boyle/Royal won easily at No. 1 and Wrisley/Bratton won big at No. 2 doubles, but Burris claimed the top two singles spots (although Altobella trailed Behrman only 3-4 at one point). The match came down to No. 3 singles, where first-year varsity player Eli Arnold was playing despite a muscle strain in his thigh. He won 6-2, 6-3 under pressure to clinch the team’s 29th straight sectional title. The season ended a few days later when the 31st ranked Eagles lost to the 25th-ranked senior-dominated Mississinewa Indians 4-1 in the regional opener. Mississinewa pulled out very close victories at No. 1 singles (three sets) and No. 1 doubles (6-4, 7-6) to survive the long battle.

2022 — Entering the sectional unranked for only the third time in the 30-year streak, the Eagles again showed their ability to rebuild with new lineups. The team returned only two full-time varsity players in Dalton Royal and Owen Vest. After some early season losses forced a lineup change, Dalton moved to No. 1 singles and Owen to No. 2 singles. Sophomore Kody Vest completed the singles lineup at No. 3. The doubles teams were both first-year combinations as seniors Riley Bratton and Colin McCrady played No. 1 doubles and senior Isaac Anderson and junior Preston Shanayda played No. 2 doubles. The Eagles
came through again with a 4-1 victory over Burris in the sectional semifinals and a 5-0 sweep of Yorktown in the finals, resulting in the 30th straight sectional title. Burris star senior Charlie Behrman advanced individually. Yorktown entered with 17 wins and high hopes of ending the long streak, but Delta dominated in the third meeting of the season between the two teams (the second meeting a week earlier had been a 3-2 win for Delta). Dalton, Owen and Kody swept singles by a combined total of 36 games for the Eagles to just 6 for the Tigers. In doubles, Riley and Colin ended the career of Tiger seniors Ethan Darby (Bob’s son) and Rafa Sabijon, 6-2, 6-1. Darby and Sabijon went 20-0 against the rest of their schedule without losing a set, but went 0-3 against Bratton-McCrady. At No. 2 doubles, Isaac Anderson and Preston Shanayda were 6-3, 7-6 winners. Junior Jake Bilby played the opening round of sectional in place of Shanayda, who had been sick. The victory extended Delta’s dominance over Yorktown as the Eagles beat the Tigers for the 60th time out of the last 61 meetings. The Eagles went on to win the regional again the following week with victories over Jay County (5-0) and Madison-Grant (4-1). Madison-Grant entered with a school-record 21 wins, but a sweep of doubles and big singles victories by the Vest brothers ended the Argylls’ season. Delta then fell 4-1 to 8th-ranked Homestead in the semi-state, winning only with Anderson and Shanayda at No. 2 doubles.

2023 — Four of the Eagles’ eight varsity players again will graduate as Owen Vest, Riley Bratton, Colin McCrady and Isaac Anderson move on. How the team rebuilds again for the 2023 season and chases its 31st sectional title remains to be seen!

4 responses on “30 Years of Sectional Titles

  1. Janet Jackson says:

    What an amazing history! All those great players owe so much if their success to superior coaching! Thank you!!

  2. Lynn Jackson says:

    Tim. It has been a fantastic journey for you and your teams. It was our privilege to have had two sons and a grandson go through your program. They gained so much more from you than how to play tennis. You are also a subtle life-coach, instilling in your players a sense of fair play as well as how to be Team players. I appreciate how calmly you achieved those goals.

  3. Tom Canright says:

    Tim Cleland was likely well-coached when he was in high school

  4. Doug Porter says:

    Tim, thank you for challenging and changing me as a coach and person. Your teams made us better. The 2011 IHSAA tournament realignment was the best decision that could have happened for Marion tennis. As I begin and will continue to reminisce about my coaching career, it’s always going to be the Marion-Delta matches at the forefront. Thank you for instructing my daughters. Thank you for your kindness to them and giving them a tennis lesson after sending your camp workers home because of extreme heat. Most importantly, thank you for instilling life-long values into your players and demonstrating that you can win at the highest level with dignity, class and great sportsmanship.

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