For The Tribune

Now that the Seymour girls tennis team has earned its fourth straight sectional title, the Owls are ready for regional.

Going into Tuesday’s matchup against Columbus North, Owls junior Emma Wood said the team needs to think positive.

“We’re looking for everybody to win, of course,” Wood said after the Owls defeated Austin 4-1 in the Seymour Sectional championship Saturday morning.

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“We know we need three points,” Wood said. “We know we can do it. We need to be aggressive, don’t be intimidated by Columbus North. They’re a good team, but so are we. We beat Floyd (Central) 5-0, so we know we can contend with North.”

The Owls lost 3-2 to North in their opening match of the season.

Wood was sidelined with a shoulder injury and did not play that match, and it was Julia Adam’s first match with the Owls.

Seymour lost to North in the regional at Bloomington last year. Wood said she feels the experience of playing North last year and this year, and defeating Floyd Central in the Hoosier Hills Conference finals, gives the Owls a mental boost.

“We know all their players now, so we know what to expect from them,” Wood said. “I think we know what they do and how they play and what our strengths are, so we know how to move around and what we need to do to win.”

On Saturday, the Owls took care of business from the start, as Kennedy Richart at No. 3 singles scored a 6-0, 6-0 win against Kayla Blaylock.

Adam won 6-1, 6-0 against Kaylin Carter at No. 1 singles, while Wood and Karen Dringenburg blanked Holli Reynolds and Cheyenne Riley 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 doubles. Lindsey Hume and Megan Baurle won 6-0, 6-2 against Kami Owens and Skyler Coomer at No. 2 doubles.

Austin’s point came at No. 2 singles where Bekah Raichel defeated Malerie Brewer 6-3, 6-2.

Co-coach Jennifer Miller said this is the lineup Seymour will put on the courts in the regional since four team members are with the Seymour band in Florida.

Miller said the singles players performed well.

“Julia had a very solid game this morning for us,” Miller said. “Kennedy was the very first one to come off. She finished her match first. She went out and executed every point very well. Malerie coming in, stepping in for us as a JV player, her first time ever in a sectional tournament, had some very nice rallies today. She really stretched some points. It was a really good experience for her to play at 2 singles.”

Wood played her first match of the season at the Providence Invitational on May 2. She said she has worked hard to get caught up on the courts.

“I’ve been taking lessons every week, and every night, I’m out playing just getting back in the swing of things, and I think we’re doing really well, and I’m doing well,” she said.

“We all play in the offseason and do as much as we can, and during the matches, we cheer for each other. I’ve actually become a good player at the net. Both Karen and I like moving into the net. It’s pretty hard to pass us when we’re up there.”

Co-coach Nate Otte said he felt like the doubles teams had strong matches against the Eagles.

“The biggest thing was to maintain a high intensity and not to get too loose with the points,” he said. “They worked on putting the ball away quickly and efficiently, which is really important in tight matches.”

Miller said it has been fun to be a part of the sectional titles.

“They have been really fun wins,” she said. “The first sectional win was kind of a surprise. We were able to get one. We have played in the regional final once out of the last three years. These girls (Richart and Dringenburg) have that experience in that regional final, so we hope to kind of build on that and push through Tuesday night.”

This time facing North, the Owls will have some different combinations in both doubles positions.

“We were successful at 2 doubles and 3 singles, so we really need our 1 doubles to step up and come out and play the best game of their season,” Miller said. “For Julia, that was her very first match ever here at the high school level, and we need to have her take her experiences from the season to the next level.”

Otte, who has coached five sectional championship teams at Seymour, said he is ready to see how they perform at regional.

“They’ll have a little bit of composure going into it knowing that they played in a really tight match against a top team like Floyd Central and were able to come out on top,” he said. “We’re a different team now than what we were at the beginning of the season when we played Columbus North. We have a lot of confidence going into it and believe that we can win.”

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Arv Koontz is a sports correspondent for The (Seymour) Tribune.