East survives marathon match for 3-2 win over BNL in opening round of HHC tourney

BNL’s Kenley Craig reaches for a volley at the net during action at No.2 doubles. Craig and Izzy Alldredge posted a win, but Columbus East escaped with a 3-2 victory on Tuesday.

By Justin Sokeland


BEDFORD – At the conclusion of a three-set marathon, when serving was a detriment rather than an advantage, Columbus East’s Lauren Degner finally refused to break.

Ending a tense battle with the only service hold of the final set, Degner recorded the make-or-break victory as the Olympians edged Bedford North Lawrence in the opening round of the Hoosier Hills Conference tournament on Tuesday.

Sweeping the singles, with Degner winning the swing match, East advanced to the semifinal with a tough 3-2 victory over the Stars. As darkness descended, the deciding match at No.1 singles labored past its third hour before the Olympians escaped with a dramatic triumph.

Degner’s clash with BNL’s Becca Epping was high-level action, with both players exchanging heavy ground strokes, with Epping rallying from a first-set thumping to play her best tennis of the season. Crackling passing shots, snappy probing blasts from the baseline, both went deep into the well of attrition while going the physical distance before Degner squeezed out a 6-1, 5-7, 7-5 win that sent East to the semifinal round against New Albany.

BNL’s Becca Epping rips a backhand from the baseline. Epping dropped a three-set decision at No.1 singles.

“That’s a good player, and Becca didn’t quit,” BNL coach Joni Stigall said. “We can’t be upset about that. Some of her shots were just nasty. She’s disappointed, but she‘ll move on and get better.”

The Stars (9-6) swept the doubles, which they’ve come to expect. Bella Stigall and Mallory Pride had to fight back in the second set for a 6-2, 6-4 victory over Shruthika Kumar and Katey Rieckers at No.1, and the undefeated No.2 doubles tandem of Izzy Alldredge and Kenley Craig also had to surge late in the second set for a 6-2, 6-3 win over Allison Gribbins and Sara Moran Mendez.

“I’m not so happy with the way the rest of us played,” Stigall said. “We play Floyd Central (in the consolation round), and that won’t be easy. We knew Floyd’s doubles are one of the top teams in the state., We can’t play like we did today.”

East finished the singles sweep with wins from Katie Hong (6-3, 6-0 over Ashlyn Wever at No.2) and Ruth Federle (6-3, 6-4 over Italy Lewis at No.3).

BNL will visit Floyd Central on Wednesday.

BNL’s Bella Stigall goes airborne to hit a baseline forehand return at No.1 doubles.


First round

Columbus East 3, BNL 2


1 Lauren Degner, CE d. Becca Epping 6-1, 5-7, 7-5

2 Katie Hong, CE d. Ashlyn Wever 6-3, 6-0

3 Ruth Federle, CE d. Italy Lewis 6-3, 6-4


1 Bella Stigall and Mallory Pride, BNL d. Shruthika Kumar and Katey Rieckers 6-2, 6-4

2 Izzy Alldredge and Kenley Craig, BNL d. Allison Gribbins and Sara Moran Mendez 6-2, 6-3