It wasn’t easy at the top of the lineup or at the bottom of the lineup, but the Delta boys’ tennis team found a way to win the Marion Regional on Wednesday evening.
The Eagles held off a strong challenge from Madison-Grant to win 4-1 and advance to the Homestead Semi-State at noon Saturday.
Delta (18-8) is the smallest enrollment school among the 16 teams still alive in the chase for the IHSAA state championship. The Eagles also are one of only four unranked teams still playing — fellow Hoosier Heritage Conference member New Castle as well as Evansville Memorial and Terre Hate South.
Madison-Grant came in with a school record 21 wins after sweeping Mississinewa, Marion and Frankton by 5-0 scores in sectional and regional play. At No. 1 singles, Luke Gilman showed excellent retrieval skills as he chased down Dalton Royal’s drop shots and deep corner shots. Gilman also was a masterful lobber. He was able to defeat Royal 6-4, 6-1 at the top spot and will advance to play Muncie Burris star Charlie Behrman on Thursday in the individual singles tournament.
Madison-Grant also hung tough at No. 2 doubles. The Argylls led 5-4 in both sets, but Delta senior Isaac Anderson and junior Preston Shanayda prevailed 7-5, 7-6 (3).
The first to win for the Eagles was the No. 1 doubles team of seniors Riley Bratton and Colin McCrady. They won 6-0, 6-3 to improve to 14-2 together. For Bratton, it was his 20th win of the season at No. 1 doubles and his 17th win in the past 18 matches.
Clinching the regional title was senior Owen Vest, who won 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 singles in a good battle with Madison-Grant’s Christopher Fox, an athletic junior who won 22 matches this fall. Vest gained his 10th straight win and secured the regional championship, just as his victory had secured the conference title 10 days earlier.
The longest match of the night came at No. 3 singles, where sophomore Kody Vest gained a 6-3, 6-2 victory over another athletic junior, Clayton Hull, who entered with over 50 career varsity victories. One changeover in the first set lasted 25-30 minutes as the players traded long points and many deuces.
The Eagles now have won 16 of their last 18 matches and have collected four championships in the past 12 days:
> They gained the Delta Invitational title on Sept. 24.
> Next they clinched the Hoosier Heritage Conference championship on Sept. 26 and regained possession of the HHC traveling trophy wooden racket. Four members of the HHC won sectional titles (Delta, New Castle, Shelbyville and Mt. Vernon); two won regional titles (Delta and New Castle); and one was a regional runner-up (Shelbyville).
> The Eagles then won their 30th straight sectional title on Oct. 1.
> And now they have added their 25th regional in the past 28 years.
Next up will be the Homestead Semi-State, where they will face the 10th-ranked Homestead Spartans. Teams that are still alive among the Final 16 that Delta has played this season include No. 3 Zionsville, No. 4 Columbus North, No. 16 Jasper, and No. 21 Culver Academies as well as New Castle.