By Rick Morwick
Senior Isabella Schoolcraft plays No. 1 singles for the Center Grove girls’ tennis team. She has played it her entire high school career.
Asked to play No. 1 doubles at the midpoint of last season to benefit the team, she cheerfully made the switch and finished the year with no regrets.
That’s because she was a state champion.
“It was awesome,” said Schoolcraft, who, with partner Cassidy Hardin, won the IHSAA Girls Doubles State Championship in June 2017. The state title was the first of any kind for the school’s girls tennis program.
“We worked really hard the second half of the season,” said Schoolcraft, who finished 14-0 at doubles. “All of our hard work paid off.”
But the payoff was for only one season.
Schoolcraft is back at No. 1 singles and as a result, won’t defend the doubles title she won with fellow senior Hardin, a Purdue basketball recruit who did not return to the team this season. But Schoolcraft is not disappointed.
Rather, she is driven to enjoy the same postseason success in singles she had in doubles. Not surprisingly, her objective is to add a singles title to her championship collection.
“I feel pretty good,” said Schoolcraft, whose two losses thus far are against opponents from top-ranked Carmel and No. 5 Terre Haute South. “I think I could have similar results in the singles bracket this year as I did last year in doubles, so that’s kind of my goal.”
Center Grove coach Debby Burton is confident in Schoolcraft’s ability to contend for the singles championship.
“Isabella’s greatest strength is her passion for the sport of tennis,” Burton said. “She loves the game, sets high goals for herself and is always striving to achieve those goals.”
Because she has played No. 1 singles throughout her career with the exception of 14 matches last season, Schoolcraft has had little trouble readjusting to her familiar role.
“I believe her transition to doubles last spring was more challenging than transitioning back to singles,” Burton said. “She has played a lot of singles in her life and plays a lot of singles in the offseason. Her success in doubles last spring definitely boosted her confidence, and I believe has helped her excel even more in singles.”
Schoolcraft, who will continue her tennis career on scholarship at Valparaiso University, agrees.
“Going from singles to doubles, I had to work a lot with my partner,” Schoolcraft said. “When you’re playing doubles, you’re doing a lot more volley but it was definitely a much harder transition going from doubles to singles because in doubles you’re moving around a lot but you’re not moving nearly as much as when you’re on the tennis court playing singles. So, over this past year I really had to train hard to get myself back into singles shape. It’s a lot more baseline. I’m hitting a lot more ground strokes than I am volleys.”
Ranked No. 6 in the state poll, Center Grove is also bidding for the team state title. The Trojans have reached the state quarterfinals the past two seasons and are working for a breakthrough to the finals this season.
“It’s going really well. We’re doing really well,” Schoolcraft said. “The whole team’s been working really hard. Everyone’s confident. We’re all having a really good year. We’re all feeling confident about where we’re at and how far we can go.”