By R. Alan Richardson
In a match that was a little closer than most tennis fans expected, the Lady Dog netters advanced to the second round of the state playoffs by defeating Murray County 3-2. Morgan took the win with matches won at number two singles (Avery Kirby), number three singles (Carley Henry), and the number one doubles slot (Caroline Rittenhouse and Madison Gasque).
Morgan’s Chloe Cooper at number one singles faced a tough, but unusual, opponent that used her backspin cut shots and lobs to perfection. Cooper came back in the second set to make things interesting, but couldn’t quite get over the hump in the loss. Cooper said about the match, “She was a very good player and I just didn’t hit enough winners. Her backspin shots from both her forehand and backhand were tough. Our top three singles players are all pretty evenly matched so it gives us an advantage at number two and three. I’ll take on the challenge any day.”
Kirby made quick work of her opponent in 6-0, 6-0 fashion playing superbly from the opening serve. “She was like a backboard out there hitting everything back to me. It was just a matter of hitting winners and I was able to do that” said Kirby. Asked what the keys to her win were she said, “My serve was pretty consistent. I don’t think I double faulted the entire match, but we knew coming in that we should be OK playing a number four seed.”
At number three Henry pretty much had her way with Murray’s opponent winning 6-0, 6-3. Asked about her play she said, “I felt good about it. I just tried to keep the ball in play and didn’t try to overpower her. My service game was good. It was fun and I didn’t get stressed out against her. She was not a bad player at all.”
The number one doubles squad of Rittenhouse and Gasque have won a lot of matches in their slot this season and this match was another yawner at 6-0, 6-3. The two girls chimed in with these comments. “We’ve come a long way this year as a team. It’s good to have Caroline as my partner. She keeps me pumped up and we support each other.” The first set was a breeze for the girls as they added, “We played well in that first set. We got down 0-2 in the second before becoming more aggressive and really wanting it, especially at the net.” This was the clincher for the team victory.
At number two doubles the duo of Jessie Pagett and Sarah Moore played well losing in a tight match 4-6, 4-6. The girls commented. “We had a few mishits, but overall we played really well against a team that was closely matched with us. It was a very competitive match and Sarah was super consistent all day. Jessie helps me not to take myself so seriously and keeps me grounded out there.”
Assistant Coach Gordon Cartee handled the coaching on a day when Head Coach Stacy Dearing couldn’t be present. Instead, she was coaching the boys at Bremen after a rainout Tuesday pushed their match back a day. Both squads competed at the same time. Dearing commented, “The girls did a great job against Murray. I’m very proud of them and the boys.”
The boys ended their season against Bremen losing in a tight match 2-3. The girls will go up against Appling County Tuesday at home at 4:30.