By Matt Hill
Ward Tanner was thrilled to win his singles match Thursday, but he will be even happier if his team gets a big win over Unicoi County today.
The Cyclone No. 1 seed on Thursday defeated Sullivan North’s J.D. Brickey easily by a score of 8-0 en route to leading his team to a 9-0 victory over the Raiders at the Elizabethton High Tennis Complex.
Tanner didn’t have much trouble against Brickey, but today will be different because as of press time he will be playing three-time district tournament champion Reed Jackson in the Unicoi match.
The match is a big one for the entire team, as most likely it will help decide the Three Rivers Conference title.
“I can’t wait until I play Reed (today),” Tanner said. “It’s definitely going to go a long way in deciding who is going to win the conference.”
The Blue Devil Boys will have revenge on their minds, as they lost in a team playoff last year to decide the league title, and a playoff could possibly happen again this year with the competitiveness of both squads.
The Cyclones are looking to take round one, then finish the deal in Erwin on Apr. 24.
“Last year the last match went really well and we were on our game, and hopefully we’ll do the same thing,” Tanner said. “We have very good depth this year, and the girls are warming up and they’re going to be good.”
The Cyclone boys are a complete team that is very strong throughout the lineup, and that will bode well for them today against Unicoi.
There’s not a Novak Djokovic or Rafael Nadal on the team, but there are plenty of John Isner’s.
“We’re all pretty skilled one through ten through the ranks,’’ Tanner said. “There’s not a superstar on this team.”
Landon Jones, Tyler Lee and Jonathan Franklin all won 8-0 and with Zach Peters and Andy Bowers winning by forfeit, the Cyclones came through with a perfect day in singles by not losing a game.
Ryan Pinkerman and Zach Treadway won 8-4 over Brickey and Tyler Hatfield, and Ben Sweely and Tyler Lee knocked off Jerry Williams and Nick Hale 8-3.
Now the attention turns to Unicoi. Elizabethton head coach Kenny Hardin likes his team’s chances.
“Unicoi is very tough,” he said. “We’re going to have to play to the best of our ability tomorrow and pretty much come our ready to play and we’ll see what happens. We know how good they are, and we respect their team. We’re going to do the best we can tomorrow.”
The girls rebounded from a tough loss to Sullivan East on Wednesday, their first to a conference team other than Unicoi since EHS dropped in classification in 2001, but did turn it around with an 8-1 triumph over the Lady Raiders.
Haley Thacker defeated Jennifer Davis 8-0, Christine Hardin knocked off Aarika Clear 8-0, Hannah Hulshut won over Rayah Hendrickson 8-1, Madison Boles squeaked by Kristen Cumbo 8-5 and Hallie Collins routed Kaitlyn McPhink 8-1.
In doubles, Thacker and Hardin, Hulshult and Courtney Evans, and Alesha Sisk and Hallie Collins all won their matches.
North’s only singles victory on either side came from Katelyn Lipanna, an 8-5 victor over Alix Allen.
Thacker had a standout afternoon, and probably the shot of the day when on the run she hit a perfect slice that led to a winner.
Thacker will need that slice and all her shots working today, as he faces off against Unicoi County’s Mallory Jackson.
“Me and Curtis Brumit have been working on that trying to get ready for Unicoi,” Thacker said. “Any hitting helps and she had really good strokes, but all I had to do was place it in the right place and that’s what’s going to help me against Mallory.”
Thacker and the Lady Cyclones hope they have a totally different feeling this afternoon than the one they faced on Wednesday, when they suffered a rare conference loss.
The loss was one that Thacker had not been used to being a part of, and it’s a feeling she hopes she’s not experiencing on Friday.
“I’ve been on teams every year where we win the conference and we go to region,” Thacker said. “We had a team meeting today and all the girls are willing to try their best because if we can’t beat Unicoi, we can at least get pretty close. We can only take it one match at a time.”
With Thacker being undefeated in conference play this year, she has definitely taken hold of the No. 1 spot and has embraced the leadership role that has come with it.
“I’m not used to being in control, and I’ve always had Jessica Brumit and Rita Basconi, as my doubles partner, so I didn’t have to be the leader until this year,” she said. “It didn’t really hit me until the first match that we needed to have a leader on this team. Most of the girls are in their first year playing tennis and I realize I have to step up and have to help, but most of the girls are right there behind me. They all want to be successful.”
Sullivan East at Johnson County
MOUNTAIN CITY — The Johnson County High School Boys received a huge team victory Thursday, and also were treated to a stellar performance in defeat by Holly Adams.
On the boys’ side, the Longhorns pulled out a 5-4 victory over Sullivan East. It gives Johnson County a season sweep of the Patriots.
Carlton Tugman defeated Daniel Umbarger 8-1, Timmy Bellamy knocked off Hunter Douglass 8-3, Travis Stockinger beat T.J. Ellis 8-0 and Mitchell Stockinger trounced Cory Fields 8-1.
In doubles, Tugman and Bellamy combined for an 8-1 victory over Umbarger and Douglass to clinch the win for JCHS.
“We have improved a lot,” JCHS head tennis coach Steve Nave said. “We have a young team, but they are getting better and they’re working hard. They’re always playing.”
The Johnson County girls lost 9-0, but it was a very good day for Adams, a sophomore who continues to get better every match.
East’s Savanna Summers defeated a still inexperienced Adams 8-4, just one day after Summers took Elizabethton’s Haley Thacker to a 9-7 set.
Summers is solid and gets everything back, but Adams was able to keep her focus and concentration. According to Nave, Adams is showing just how good she is going to be.
“I’ve known since the beginning of the season she had a ton of potential,” he said. “Her nerves are not bothering her anymore, and she’s just out there playing. She played unbelievable today.”
Next up for the Longhorns is a date against the Elizabethton Cyclones on Tuesday. Nave thinks this might be a better match than the first meeting between the two schools.
“I think we’re going to do better,” Nave said. “The middle of our lineup with Travis and Mitchell Stockinger has really improved. We expect to be competitive.”