Alexandria clinches share of CIC tennis title

May 8—ALEXANDRIA — It certainly has not been easy, but Alexandria's Lily Harpe has battled through personal grief this spring to help keep the Tigers' girls tennis machine on track. Having already won their sixth straight Madison County title earlier in the season, the Tigers clinched at least a share of the Central Indiana Conference crown with a 5-0 win over rival Elwood on Wednesday evening.

Alexandria can take the outright title for the third time in four years with a win Thursday at Madison-Grant.

Last weekend, the Tigers played in the annual Jasper Smash Cancer Tennis Invitational where each participating team honors someone close to the program who has fought against the dreaded disease. This year, coach Matt DeVault chose to honor Harpe's grandmother, Amber Harpe, who lost her battle April 10. At the invite and again Wednesday, the Tigers wore teal — the color for ovarian cancer awareness — T-shirts to honor one of Harpe's biggest fans.

"That's important because a lot of these families come out and support these girls in match after match, basketball, volleyball, whatever," DeVault said. "It was really nice to have the family there and honor Amber for what she did for Lily."

Even as she fought to the end, Amber was a regular attendee for Harpe's basketball games and tennis matches. Harpe said this is a fitting way to remember someone so important to her.

"She never missed anything until she got diagnosed. She came to every sporting event, including basketball," Harpe said. "She was just really involved with our school."

"When you have a loss in the family, getting back to what you enjoy and what you're good at helps take your mind off things," DeVault said. "I've always said that when you come to tennis practice or a match, for those two to three hours you can block the world out and just enjoy your sport."

Against Elwood, Harpe and her No. 1 doubles partner Abby Gaines posted a 6-2, 6-2 win over Kimmee Fern and Cali Doom, the third win for Alexandria to clinch the match victory as well as the CIC share.

Harpe said the support she receives from her teammates has helped keep her spirits up during a difficult time.

"The support I get from my team is really awesome," she said. "Playing helps me forget about it and not think about it, but at the same time I'm honoring her and trying to play as well as I can for her."

The victory also maintains the team's momentum as Alexandria (11-2, 4-0 CIC) hopes to conclude its conference quest Thursday before embarking on the postseason next week.

"This year we have the biggest drive of all because last year, we lost (the CIC) to Mississinewa," senior No. 1 singles player Allie Clark said. "We gained that back, and we don't want to share it. We want it all to ourselves."

The sectional pairings will be announced Monday evening with the Tigers and Panthers destined for the same bracket — along with Frankton and Tipton — in Sectional 55 at Elwood, to be played May 16 and May 17.

Clark, the lone senior in the starting lineup, rolled to a 6-1, 6-0 win over Raeghan Wisehart on Wednesday. Clark said her confidence in herself is high as she looks for another team sectional title next week.

"I've improved a lot over last year. It shows in my scores, in my record, and it shows if you just come and watch me play," Clark said. "I have more confidence than I've ever had."

While Clark is the most experienced player for the Tigers, two of the youngest players on DeVault's roster set the tone early.

Freshman Kara Quinn took a quick 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 2 singles over Darica Dickey while sophomore Fayte Bridwell rolled to a 6-2, 6-0 win over Brianna Rangel at No. 3 singles to give the Tigers an early 2-0 lead.

Bridwell has been in the lineup all season as a newcomer, while Quinn stepped in recently after junior Avery Cuneo — who was off to a 6-2 start — was lost for the season with a knee injury.

"Kara has kind of stepped up out of nowhere, almost," DeVault said. "You don't always anticipate a freshman taking a varsity spot, but after the injury she's jumped in there and played extremely well at times."

The final — and most competitive — point came from Addison Bates and Delilah Young, who outlasted Nyla Rebuck and Olivia Waddell 6-2, 6-3 at No. 2 doubles.

While the Tigers look to close out a perfect CIC season at M-G, the Panthers will welcome county rival Pendleton Heights to Elwood on Thursday.

Contact Rob Hunt at or 765-640-4886.