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Cardinals break losing streak in finals

Posted Monday, October 5, 2009, at 8:12 PM

(Photo)
Bloomfield boys tennis coach Mike Canty (left) has a brief chat with No. 1 singles player Derek Corn during the sectional at Loogootee. The Cardinals defeated Loogootee 4-1 Friday and North Daviess 5-0 Saturday to claim its first sectional title since 1997. The Cardinals will take a 19-1 record into the regional at Jasper Tuesday against Castle. Corn has a perfect 20-0 record this season. (By B.J. Hargis/Greene County Daily World).
LOOGOOTEE -- A year ago after the Bloomfield High School boys tennis team lost to North Daviess 4-1 in the finals of the Loogootee Sectional, then junior Holden Hamm told BHS coach Mike Canty, "Don't worry about this one. We will give you a trophy next year."

Fast forward 12 months later and Hamm turned out to be one heck of a prognosticator as the Cardinals defeated host Loogootee 4-1 Friday in the semifinals and then beat North Daviess 5-0 in the final to claim the first sectional title since 1997.

"Our motto this year was 231," said Hamm. "As in Highway 231, the road that leads to Jasper.

"This is what we have wanted to do all year."

The Cardinals, who dropped five sectional championship matches in a row before winning the fourth title in school history, will face Castle at 6 p.m. Tuesday in one semifinal at the Jasper Regional.

"We have had some awfully good teams that were really close, but couldn't quite push over the edge," said Canty, whose Cardinals have won 19 of 20 matches, eclipsing the 18-win total of the 1997 team. "After we won, I said, 'This is a good thing. Why didn't we didn't do this before?"

Canty said it was anything but easy, especially against long-time tournament nemesis Loogootee, who had beaten the Cardinals in the sectional finals in 2007, 2006, 2005 and 2004.

"It was really tense for a while," said Canty. "I tired to tell the boys that it is tough to beat Loogootee at Loogootee, because they are always ready to play and competitive.

"We just stayed with the game plan, hung in here and kept hitting balls back. At one time, Curtis (Hasler) was down 5-2 in the second set at three singles. Our two doubles (Jacob Chestnut and Andy Cochrane) also were down. But all of a sudden we just started putting things together. Curtis won five games in a row to win and get our second point. Then two doubles came back to win, earning our third point. It all happened within five or 10 minutes. I told them they don't realize what that does to an old guy like me."

Derek Corn, whose two victories in the tournament pushed his season record to 20-0 at No. 1 singles, the first time a singles player at Bloomfield has ever posted undefeated regular season. He has expanded his career record to 62-18, No. 1 all-time in singles and career wins.

"Our main goal this year was to win the sectional," said Corn, who was 18-4 at No. 1 singles in 2008. "It was really sweet to beat Loogootee. That is one team that I didn't feel badly about putting out of the sectional.

"I don't think it has sunk in yet. We were in Kindergarten the last time Bloomfield won a boys tennis sectional. It was cool because we were in the (Apple Festival) Parade Sunday. It is a really good feeling."

Canty said he knew two years ago that Corn started to make a push that has resulted in his record-breaking season.

"I knew that Corn was really pumped up for this," said Canty. "He would got out in the summer and play USTA tournaments.

"Every time I would drive by the courts, Derek was out there hitting serves by himself. I am not really surprised at his success."

Corn, the son of Todd and Sheila Corn, was not the only player that set individual records this year. Hamm and doubles partner Austin Schulte have a 20-0 record as well, also a first undefeated season for a doubles team at BHS.

The 20 victories also gives Hamm 51 for his career, the most by a doubles player at Bloomfield. He eclipsed the 41 career doubles victories by Corey Sparks.

"I really looked up to Corey when he had the record," said Hamm. "I love having the record, but it doesn't mean anything.

"The hardware is the only thing that means something to me."

Hamm, the son of Jack and Risa Johnson, and Canty both said that it was unusual for a player to play all four seasons at doubles, which might make his record even tougher to beat.

"Holden could have played anywhere. As his career progressed, I think he developed an appreciation for doubles. You have to be smart to be good at doubles play," said Canty. "As kids get experience, they usually move up to singles. Kids love to play singles.

"Holden has gotten so much smarter on the tennis court. He has always loved to hit the ball hard. But this past year, he started to look for better shots. He didn't just pound the ball down the middle, but looked for angles and touches to change the tempo of the game."

Chestnut, Corn, Hamm, Oliphant, Schulte and Cochrane, who is in his first season on the team, are all seniors while Hasler is a sophomore.

"I knew we would be awfully good, but we were awfully good last year too," said Canty, who is now 189-139 with three sectional titles (1995 also) in his 16th year in charge of the Cardinals. "We lost Willy (Scott, 56 career wins) and I did not know how Joel would perform making the move from No. 3 to No. 2 singles, which is not an easy move. Curtis also had to make the move from doubles (3-2 in 2008). We had have seniors come out for the first time and make an impact, but none have made an impact like Andy.

"These guys have just done a magnificent job. You could say it was the right kids at the right time. All the seniors, but Cochrane, have been together since grade school and they are all good friends. When they ran out of things to do, they just went and hit some tennis balls. Everything they have achieved is a direct result of their hard work. Their willingness to get out on the court and hit balls has made them great players."

The players said that Canty also played a big part in their careers.

"He has been awesome. I couldn't ask for a better coach," said Corn. "He has taught me a lot.

"He has helped me so much as a person and a tennis player that it is unbelievable. I did not want to play for anyone else in high school."

Hamm said his relationship with Canty dates back to junior high school.

"Coach Canty has been like a father figure to me. I have looked up to him since the summer before the seventh grade," said Hamm. "Coach and Nancy (Canty) have both been very good to me.

"It almost brings me to tears just to think about what he has meant to me and the tennis program at Bloomfield. There is not a better coach in the state of Indiana."

Canty said he does not like to compare teams, when asked about how good his 2009 squad is.

"It is hard to try and compare teams from 10-11 years ago or even before that," said Canty. "But this is an awfully good team.

"They are as close as any team I've ever had. They are a lot of fun to be around. If you pushed me, I would say they are the best team I've had. We never had a player go undefeated in the regular season and we had Corn at one singles and Hamm and Schulte at doubles. Not only that but they went undefeated through the sectional. That has to tell you something of the quality of this team."

Canty said they are the underdog against Castle, who has tons of experience at the regional, but he believes in his squad.

"Whatever happens, I am really proud of these guys," said Canty. "It couldn't happen to a better group of guys. I am glad to see some of their dreams come true.

"I expect Corn to go down there and play with lot of heart. Hopefully he can keep Castle out there for a long time. I feel confident about one singles and two doubles. They have as good as chance as anybody at those two spots. Then we just need another point. Lets try to find it someplace."

B.J. Hargis is the sports editor at the Greene County Daily World. He can be reached at (812) 847-4487, ext. 12 or at hargisbj@yahoo.com.


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