At Carroll's tennis courts, there is a sign – made to look like a tennis ball – that lists the accomplishments for the boys tennis program: its numerous sectional titles, its conference championships and its individual and doubles state qualifiers.
One of the few distinctions missing was a team regional championship, but that will be changing soon.
The host Chargers finally slayed the dragon Wednesday, defeating 33-time regional champion Homestead 4-1 to win the first regional title in Carroll history and advance to Saturday's semistate at Homestead. There, they'll take on the winner of state power North Central and New Palestine.
“I haven't gotten too misty-eyed yet, I haven't had to put the sunglasses back on,” said Carroll coach Kyle Stoffel, who is in his 29th season leading the program and had already won 16 sectional titles. “Words can hardly describe it. Sectionals are always awesome, I've got a few regionals with the girls team and to finally get one here, it's really hard to describe how awesome it is.”
The Chargers (22-2) also tied a school record for victories in a season. They had beaten Homestead 3-2 in the regular season and so came into the match with some confidence despite a string of losses to the Spartans in recent years.
“It feels amazing,” Carroll's No. 2 singles player Ethan Koeneman said. “We never beat Homestead all three years I'd been here and then coming out here, beating them twice this year and winning regionals, it's really a special thing.
“They're good, but we're better and we really showed it today and pushed through,” he added.
Koeneman, who had dropped his match when his team faced Homestead in the regular season, got the Chargers off to a promising start with a 6-1 win over Spartan senior Jared Sagan in his first set that saw him pumping his fist and shouting repeatedly after big points. He fell behind 4-3 in the second set, but won three straight games to clinch the match.
The Chargers took control of the championship when the No. 1 doubles team of Matt Kosnik and Conner Gibson won a decisive third set to take their match 6-1, 2-6, 6-2. Carroll then clinched the team victory with a 7-6 (4), 6-2 triumph in the No. 2 doubles match behind Will Jamison and Collin Saylor, who high-fived and embraced as they celebrated the title.
“The guys just really, they dealt with (the pressure),” Stoffel said. “Nobody folded throughout the entire day.”
At No. 3 singles, Carroll's Brian Mason won 6-7 (5), 6-2, 6-2 over James Cowan.
On the No. 1 singles court, Homestead's Stephen Meier provided his team's only victory, a 6-1, 6-2 win over Griffin Martin in a battle of two of the top players in the area.
Meier will move on to face Bellmont's Cole Shifferly for the individual sectional title.