|Oakland High School’s tennis team has a shot at the state title for the first time since 2004.
Siegel High’s team, as well as individual players from Siegel, Oakland and Central Magnet, will get to play in their hometown after winning a berth through this week’s qualifying for the 2012 BlueCross Spring Fling.
Last week started out Monday when 10 area high school tennis stars qualified for next week’s individual state tournament by doing well in the regional playoffs. By the end of the week, the Siegel Lady Stars and the Oakland Patriots also reserved a place in the team competition with wins in their sectional matches.
Players from both teams had a busy week playing in both tournaments, adding to the workload by qualifying for the individual and team state playoffs which will take place at the Old Fort Park tennis courts starting on Tuesday.
On Wednesday, the Siegel Lady Stars added to its short but legendary history by earning another trip to the four-team BlueCross Spring Fling Class AAA playoffs with a 4-2 win over Cookeville in its sectional match. Three of their players, Ashlee Boles, Marissa Kovach and Ragen White will also play in the individual state tournament after winning regionals in Shelbyville last Monday. Boles will play singles, while the duo of Kovach and White will play doubles.
“We feel fortunate and excited to be going back to the state tournament,” Siegel head tennis coach Jeff Martin said.
He also added SHS will have to be on top of its game next week during the state tournament in order to do well.
“It’s going to take a total team effort,” he said. “Everyone is going to have to step up and being focused on doing the best we can.”
In 2011 and 2007, the Lady Stars advanced to state tournament as team, and were knocked out in the semifinals. In 2008, they won the team championship.
Since the school’s first season in 2004, either the boys or girls team have played in the state tournament either as a team or individuals every year except 2004 and 2010.
While the Lady Stars’ success has happened on a regular basis, the Oakland boys’ team will be heading back to the state tournament for the first team in several years after defeating the rain, heat and a tough Cleveland team, 4-1 last Thursday.
First-year OHS head coach R.J. Pierce believes his team chemistry was one of the main reasons the team will be making its first team appearance in the state tournament.
“They all are best friends with each other, three of guys live next to each other, and three of them are brothers,” Pierce said. “So, they know each other very well. This team has been built during the last three years. They have been seeing each other everyday since October on a regular basis; it has helped them mesh together as a team.”
The Patriots not only had to deal with their opponent, but also the changing weather conditions. When the first serve took place at 1 p.m., temperatures were in the upper 80s. The players and coaches agree it was one of the hottest days the team has faced this season. About 2:30 p.m., the rains came and delayed the action for a little more than an hour.
Before the showers hit, OHS had a two match to one advantage over the Blue Raiders, but CHS was making a run hoping to close the gap. No. 4 singles Jesse Williams and No. 3 singles Charley Myers won both of their matches, while No. 1 singles Connor Shea lost to one of the best in the state, CHS’s Alex Kilbisz. Charley also earned a spot in the individual tournament earlier in the week by winning the regional individual singles title.
The other two matches were in progress when the heavy showers hit the court. No. 2 singles James Myers had just lost a hard fought second set to Blue Raider Zach Barringer, while No. 5 singles Ben Godwin was two points away from winning his match.
“The heat started to get to me in the second set,” Myers said. “The rain delay helped cool me off. During the delay, I drove my car to the other side of the building and I just kept to myself.”
After the hard courts were dried with leaf blowers and squeegees, the action returned to the court. Godwin needed less than 10 minutes to finish off his opponent.
“It was a little bit tough,” Godwin said about waiting out the rain delay to win those last two points. “I wanted to pull out that win before the rain delay, but I had to stay focused on what my goal was and not worry about the conditions. I could not do anything about it.”
Myers took advantage of the break to regain his form and energy, and took the third set. His win clinched the four points needed to win the overall match and send OHS back to the state tournament.
“I really did not think about anything, but just played tennis,” Myers said of his mindset before scoring the winning point for OHS. “If I played the best to my abilities, I would be able to get it. He had a lot of weapons, and I just overcame that one.”
The No. 2 doubles match was in progress, but was not completed since Myers won his singles match on a different court and earned enough points to advance. The No. 1 doubles match was not needed.