Frankton finding its way behind lone senior

Apr. 19—FAIRMOUNT — The young Frankton girls tennis team is beginning to find success of late as it looks to its lone senior for leadership.

Even referring to Emily Bilyeu as a senior is a little misleading. Yes, she is a 12th-grader and is looking forward to graduation and studying nursing at Purdue in a few months. But in terms of tennis years, she is still a relative newcomer, playing her third season after picking up the game as a sophomore.

She has progressed rapidly, however, catching coach Stephan Hamaker by surprise as Bilyeu has earned the No. 1 singles position this season. Friday, she led the Eagles to a 5-0 win over Madison-Grant in Frankton's Central Indiana Conference opener with a straight-set victory.

Bilyeu has made the jump from No. 2 singles a year ago on a team that lost four starters to graduation and has no players in the same positions they played in 2023. Yet, this was the third straight win for Frankton and caps a week of five matches in five days for the Madison County runners-up.

"Conference play is important, but like any coach I want to make sure we're playing our best at the end of the year," Hamaker said. "We're building toward that, and it's crazy to think that we'll be playing sectional in three weeks. It's such a fast season."

The new spot in the lineup has taken some getting used to for the senior, who is playing every opposing team's top player.

"I play the best player on the other team, and a lot of them are going to college for it, and I am not," she said. "It's a lot of learning. I have to think and analyze a lot more at No. 1 because each player has their own style. When I was at No. 2, I would just hit it, hit it, keep it in play, where now I have to have a strategy for each game."

Friday, she made short work of M-G's top player, Lexi Terwilleger, to the tune of a 6-0, 6-0 whitewashing. It was the same score posted by Lily Hall in the No. 3 singles match, securing Frankton's first point with the win over Lorelai Warner.

Also the manager for the boys tennis team that has won back-to-back sectional championships in the fall, the soft-spoken Bilyeu has had to adapt to the leadership position that has fallen in her lap this year. Her coach said she is perfect for the role.

"Most of the time during matches, I always try to pick them up," Bilyeu said. "Sometimes, afterwards I can tell them things that they can work on."

"She's really a junior since she just came out for tennis her sophomore year, but she's been a varsity letterman all the way through," Hamaker said. "Kind of, in my opinion, came out of nowhere and slid into No. 2 singles last year and got some valuable experience. If I remember right, she led us in wins at two singles last year. Just a real steady and quiet kid, even though she's quiet."

For the most part, the Eagles' points Friday resembled the wins for Bilyeu and Hall.

Sloane Harrison and Campbell Quire took the No. 1 doubles match 6-1, 6-1 over Josie Engle and Lainey Lutterman while Karlee Cole and Laela Deitzer rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 2 doubles over Maddie Freel and Lauren Wilson.

The most-contested match came at No. 2 singles, but it did not start that way as Frankton's Lainey Hamaker dominated the first set 6-0.

However, utilizing her strong forehand, Madison-Grant sophomore Kaitley Dickason battled back and took a 4-3 lead in the second set. Even with the overall team score decided, she did not give in.

"She's a competitor and an athlete, and it was nice to see her fight back after she was struggling in that first set," M-G coach Tony Pitt said. "She had a positive attitude and was hitting through her shots. That's the biggest thing, and I like the way she's figuring things out. She competed well."

Hamaker, who has basketball workouts in addition to the five matches this week on the tennis courts, battled back to hold off Dickason 7-5 in the second set and complete the Eagles' sweep.

Madison-Grant will host the Argyll Invitational on Saturday morning, opening against an unbeaten Maconaquah squad, while the Eagles will host Anderson on Monday.

Contact Rob Hunt at

or 765-640-4886.