INDIANAPOLIS | Yet again, the Munster boys tennis team left North Central High School without a runner-up medal or state championship trophy.
For the third straight year, the Mustangs lost in the Indiana High School Athletic Association state semifinals. The latest setback was 5-0 against top-ranked Carmel on Saturday morning.
"It's tough," Munster coach Steve Lopez said. "When you're a young kid, you always feel like you have a fighting chance. I'd rather our guys be upset and want to win, opposed to walking away with a smile and saying, ‘Hey, we're here.'"
The eighth-ranked Mustangs, who finished 20-1, were also undefeated the past two years heading into the state semifinals. They lost to Center Grove 4-1 in 2008 and Bloomington South 3-2 in 2009.
"It's an unbelievable accomplishment, being one of the last four teams in the state, but you have to be upset because that's what keeps you hungry and keeps your fire going," Lopez said. "It's back to the drawing board."
The Mustangs, who won every match this season 5-0 or 4-1 prior to Saturday, were overwhelmed by the victorious Greyhounds. Carmel (21-0) went on to beat No. 3 Brebeuf Jesuit 4-1 in the state final.
The Greyhounds swept every postseason match 5-0 before dropping only their third individual point all season against Brebeuf. It was Carmel's sixth overall state championship.
"They're solid everywhere, up and down the lineup," Lopez said. "We were able to compete on a couple courts, but when you run into a superior team, you're probably not going to luck your way into a victory.
"We have to create more winners and be more aggressive. You can't assume you're going to be able to build points off people's mistakes. A team like Carmel isn't going to give you many chances."
Greyhounds junior Mihir Kumar beat senior Aaditya Shah 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles. Carmel's Elliott Yee defeated sophomore Jack Heiniger 6-1, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, and Conor Cunningham beat sophomore Michael Kitchell 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Carmel's Chris Bertolini and Patrick O'Neill defeated junior Ryan Heuer and senior Chandler Marcus 6-3, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles. Connor Dunn and Alex McMahan beat sophomores Nathan Kondamuri and Taha Qureshi 6-1, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.
"Once you get to the (state) Final Four, any team has a good chance to win," Shah said. "Everybody was talking about Carmel being the toughest team, but we came out here thinking if we played our best, we could give them a tough fight.
"It hurts, but I'm still proud of our team right now. We really wanted to do this for the team, the town and the program. It's hard to get these opportunities to get back down here. You get so close and you really want to be in that championship match."
Shah was named the tournament's mental attitude award winner.