Lauren Long walked onto the court at North Central High School to face South Bend St. Joseph’s Molly Bellia in the IHSAA girls tennis individual singles state championship on Saturday. The Park Tudor junior only lost once during the regular season — coincidentally to Bellia. On a hot June afternoon, Long pushed herself to the limit, but it was not enough to bring home a state title as Bellia defeated Long 6-4, 6-3.
It was a grueling match with temperatures into the 90s. Both Long and Bellia looked exhausted but pressed on. They trained and worked all year to get to state with Long especially training to work on her weaknesses from the first meeting against Bellia.
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“I tried to capitalize on where I was getting beat the first time,” Long said after the match. “Molly played really well, so sadly it didn’t work this time.”
As a freshman, Bellia finished the season undefeated. Playing an undefeated opponent can be a daunting task, but Long felt despite the losses to Bellia she still had a successful season.
“It was definitely better than my freshman season and I though I improved immensely,” Long said.
Long rated her performance in the championship match at 7 out of 10. The high heat created difficult playing conditions that played a factor in both athletes’ performances. Long stated the conditions made it more difficult to move.
“The heat made it really hard today, so my movement wasn’t as good as I wanted it to be,” said an exhausted Long after the match. “But Molly played really well, so there wasn’t much I could do.”
Evansville pair win doubles title
Abby Myers and Margo Throop will be returning to Evansville as state champions.
The Memorial girls’ tennis No. 1 doubles duo won the individual state title with a three-set victory over Delta’s Tynan Dishman and Maggie Manor. After dropping the first set 3-6, they rallied for 7-6 and 6-1 set victories to take home the state championship.
The senior duo were able to finish their high school tennis careers in style after finish the season with a 26-1 record as a duo. They finished a perfect 9-0 in the postseason.
Myers and Throop got things started with a straight-sets quarterfinal victory over New Albany’s Layne Burke and Lily Meyer by a final score of 6-1, 6-3. They then continued their hot performance into Saturday’s semifinal round with a 6-1, 7-6 (7-3) victory over Hamilton Southeastern’s Misha Bukkasagaram and Emily Orme.
In 2019, Myers and Throop were the state-runner ups. They lost to the Carmel duo of Lauren Littell and Leila Antony in the championship match.
The Tigers advanced to the state finals’ as a team but lost a tough 3-2 matchup to South Bend St. Joseph’s in the opening round of the tournament. It was the only loss Memorial suffered during the entire season.
Evansville Courier & Press reporter Hendrix Magley contributed to this story.