Perry Meridian sophomore Sajin Smith advanced to state
Senior staff writer
Perry Meridian state finalist Sajin Smith will be more determined next season when he returns to the tennis court for the Falcons.
In only his second year with the Falcons, Smith continued the family tennis heritage by competing in the state finals Oct. 20 at Park Tudor. Smith gamely battled Bloomington North senior Mac Rogers 4-4 in the first set before losing 6-4 and dropping the second set 6-1.
“I hope I can get here again,” Smith, a sophomore, said. “I really had a great season; it was fun.”
Smith is coached at Perry Meridian by Richard Lord and mentored year-round by his father, Bryan Smith, a two-time IHSAA singles champion as a sophomore and senior at Center Grove. His son was attempting to be the fifth Southside netter to claim a state title and the first since Chris Herron of Greenwood in 2006.
“Being here and not going farther will be an easy motivational tool for him,” Bryan Smith said. “He’s going to want to get back here and do better, so he can have a better result the next time.”
Smith played in front of many relatives, including a great uncle and great aunt from Fort Worth, Texas, and teammates in the opening round of the state finals.
He opened by winning the first game on his serve and fighting through two ties to go ahead 3-2 and 4-3. He won the fifth game by aggressively coming from behind 40-15 and eventually scoring the final three points. He dominated the seventh game and won it with an ace.
Smith then lost the next three games on a double fault and two returns that went out of bounds. He trailed in each of those games 40-15, leaving no room for error.
“He saw the momentum shift and made some errors that he usually doesn’t make,” Smith’s father said. “If he had won after that tie (4-4), maybe the match becomes different. This is such a different environment.”
Smith lost the first three games in the second set but recovered with a well-placed shot to win the fourth game. Rogers, a senior, then dominated the next three games to win the match.
Rogers defeated his semifinal foe Saturday but lost the state title to Patrick Fletchall of Carmel.
Smith, unbeaten during the regular season, won 20 consecutive matches until falling to Rogers.
“He ran me quite a bit back and forth,” Smith said. “I missed some shots, and I double-faulted a little more than usual. His experience counted here.”
Smith will continue to compete in amateur matches. He was on a championship team in Oklahoma and reached the third round of a national tourney two weeks earlier.
Obviously, Lord enjoys having Smith, an A student, on the team as a role model for teammates.
“Sajin certainly has taken us to another level as far as this type of environment,” Lord said. “As an individual he has set the par quite high. His tennis is fantastic; he’s a great kid and a great teammate.”
Smith began playing tennis at age 7 and started taking it seriously three years later.
His first name, Sajin, means “wise man,” a name that he is living up to on and off the court.