Elyse Nelson needed to engineer a major turnaround to propel the Carmel High School girls tennis team.
Fortunately for the Greyhounds, she was up for the challenge.
After losing to South Bend St. Joseph’s Ashi Amalnathan at No. 2 singles in a 3-2 team loss May 12, Nelson got another shot June 3 at the IHSAA state championship at Center Grove High School.
With the match tied at 2-2, Nelson rallied to beat Amalnathan 5-7, 6-3, 6-4 to give the No. 2 Greyhounds a 3-2 victory over No. 1 St. Joseph. It was the third consecutive state tennis title and record 13th overall for the Carmel girls. The Greyhounds have won 10 of the last 14 girls state titles.
“I just think I was more well-rested, and we had more practice this week,” Nelson said of the turnaround. “It was just a different match.”
After losing the first set, Nelson was down 3-0 in the second set before winning six consecutive games at No. 2 singles.
“She got the momentum and then came out and did what she had to do,” Carmel coach Dan Brunette said. “Elyse is a very good ball striker and it showed. She served more efficiently and made more first serves. Then on return of serve, Nelson started to hit the ball to a certain part of the court to keep Amalnathan from controlling the point right away.”
Up 5-2 in the final set, Nelson lost two games and was playing the side of the court that gave both players more trouble.
“The wind was coming out of the northeast, so it was a lot more difficult to play on the south side of the court,” Brunette said.
Nelson also acknowledged she was a little nervous closing the match out.
“I just tried to focus, slow down my breathing and calm myself down,” she said.
All three state titles were special, but Nelson said it was different to win the decisive point in her last high school match.
Carmel’s other points came in doubles as seniors Ali Griffin and Alexa Lewis topped Dani Graham and Gracie Velasco 6-4, 6-1 at No. 1 doubles.
“We just stayed positive and not getting down on ourselves,” Griffin said. “We were trying to win points at the net and not make errors at the baseline.”
The partners are scheduled to play June 10 in the state doubles semifinals.
“We didn’t play together that much but being seniors and being together before, we instantly bonded and work well together,” Lewis said.
Sophomore Marina Duncan and freshman Alex Widjaja topped Lily Mayfield and Maggie Nguyen 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles. Duncan and Widjaja finished 25-2.
Carmel junior Nora Perkins lost to 2021 singles champion Molly Bellia at No. 1 singles and sophomore Grace Kim fell at No. 3 singles.
Perkins had the only loss in the earlier semifinals as the Greyhounds downed No. 4 Fishers 4-1.
This was Brunette’s first season as Carmel’s boys and girls tennis coach. He won three boys state titles as North Central’s coach.
“Losing to South Bend St. Joe the first time might have been a blessing in disguise,” Brunette said. “After that match, we really came together and we were on a mission to get to (the final) and play our best tennis.”