Girls' tennis: Last win for Winkler as Bloomington North falls in regional

After four years and a senior season at No. 3 singles without a blemish, Bloomington North's Bella Winkler was going to play it out.

The effort was purely personal at that point, with Columbus North having already claimed the necessary three wins to take their regional tennis final. Winkler won the first set, 6-2. CN's Annabelle Sun returned the favor in Set 2.

"In a million years, I couldn't imagine that she would say she wanted to play a tiebreaker," North coach Barb Mills said. "She's a long-haul time grinder kid and that's just her."

Sun got up 2-1 and never led by more than one game. She was up 5-4 in Set 3 when Winkler took over.

More: Softball: Edgewood's sectional win is off the wall

"I got some really good coaching from coach Mills," Winkler said. "She said one thing: 'Now it's just power and will.' And that really got me going. Just the loopy balls, getting back into my game."

Winkler went back out and served up a 5-5 tie, got a break and finished it off after nearly three hours, 7-5. Final score: Columbus North 3, Bloomington North 2.

Sun had played doubles during the regular season meeting, so Winkler was facing a different challenge and met it head-on to the very end.

"The girl that Bella played today had a lot more firepower, and she was a lot steadier," Mills said. "She put some pressure on Bella. That second set, she just started swinging out. She didn't make a lot of errors. Then Bella got tight. And what a battle in that third set.

"She really steadied out at the end. She got her loops going and then the slices and boy, she made some incredible gets on the court that saved some big points."

And her perfect record for the season.

"I'm thankful for it," Winkler said. "But it's not main thing I was focused on. I was just happy to be here with all of my friends."

North's season isn't completely done yet. The doubles team of Keira Murphy and Ellie Bruce rolled 6-2, 6-0, and will play Scottsburg's top doubles team in the individual tournament on Thursday at 5:30 p.m. at South.

Strategy pays off

Bloomington North won their regular season meeting 3-2, so the Bull Dogs' head coach had to find a way to flip just one match to win a seventh straight regional title.

His top two singles spots were set as Kathryn Wilson and Aya Saad each beat Alex Shirley and Brooke Bailey by 6-0, 6-0 counts. No doubles combo was going to beat Murphy and Bruce, so switching out his No. 3 singles player and a doubles player from each duo, he came up with a winning formula.

A stronger No. 2 doubles team of Siri Poludasu and Nino Akhalaya prevailed 6-3, 6-2 over Lucy Smith and Maddie Brumley to clinch the third win.

Doubles moves on

Bruce and Murphy are looking to make the run they never had a chance to make last year when Bruce turned her ankle in the sectional final.

"They're playing well, they're playing steady, they're playing aggressive," Mills said. "Ellie's hitting her forehand and doing well at the net. Keira's poaches are just scary. They just have the energy and the enthusiasm. They have a lot of confidence right now."

The duo is 17-3 this season.

"Its amazing because I think we've always known we can go pretty far," Bruce said. "And last year we didn't get to, but this year, we're excited."

Senioritis for North

The Cougars entire lineup, save for Murphy, is made up of seniors and it is the end of the line for them as a team.

"It's hard to describe right now," Winkler said. "It doesn't feel real, like it's over yet."

"I don't it's really hit me yet," Bruce said. "I don't know if I'm trying to push off the feeling or if it hasn't hit me. I know it's bittersweet right now, obviously as a team, but I know I'm going to be friends with these girls forever and we're going to celebrate our connections with coach."

The Cougars finished 16-2, with both losses to teams ranked in the top 15, and piled up a 29-8 mark over the past two seasons with two sectional titles.

"They didn't let anything get in the way," Mills said. "They had their goals and they kept to it. They were great role models. Great kids in every way you could imagine."

Contact Jim Gordillo at and follow on Twitter @JimGordillo.

This article originally appeared on The Herald-Times: Girls' tennis: Winkler wins as Bloomington North falls in regional