By Matt Hill
Elizabethton boys tennis player Landon Jones might have been the best kept secret in the Three Rivers Conference.
He’s a secret no more.
The seventh seed on the EHS team, Jones was inserted into the lineup to play No. 1 doubles with Andy Bowers, and the tandem pulled off a shocking 8-5 upset over Milligan signee Carlton Tugman and Ryan Whitener from Johnson County to finish off a 7-2 team victory for the Cyclones over the Longhorns at the Elizabethton High School tennis courts.
The Lady Cyclones won the girls team match over Johnson County 9-0.
With Elizabethton leading 4-2 after the singles, the Cyclones inserted Andy Bowers, the team’s No. 3 seed who had defeated Whitener 8-2 earlier in the day into the No. 1 doubles spot with Jones, a talented No. 7 seed who has basically been a victim of being on a very deep and talented Elizabethton team.
Jones played anything but like a lower seed as Elizabethton took an early lead over Whitener and Tugman, last year’s region finalist in singles.
Jones threw Johnson County off with an excellent net game, where he excelled at producing solid volleys.
“We were ready to come out here and play,” Jones said. “We tried to push it out there and do the best we can. We’ve been working on a lot of volleys this year, so I think that helps out a lot in doubles.”
Bowers was steady throughout the match and the two players clicked very well together.
When the Longhorns made a rally late, the Cyclone tandem proved to make the big shots when it counted.
“This felt great,” Jones said. “We had been waiting for this match, and it felt good to win it.”
Bowers had a great victory over Whitener earlier in the day, where he played nearly flawless.
Whitener is a very solid player who gets a lot of balls back, but Bowers had too much power for the junior.
“I feel great about it,” Bowers said. “He hit to my backhand side which is weak right now because I’m a little too stiff, but other than that, that was about it weakness wise.”
Other Cyclone singles victories included Tyler Lee defeating Travis Stockinger 8-1. Ryan Pinkerman knocking off Mitchell Stockinger 8-2 and Zach Treadway held off a strong effort by Johnson County’s Justin Baker by a score of 8-4.
In doubles, Ben Sweely and Johnathan Franklin won 8-2 over Andy Rosado and Joey Porter and Caleb Bailey and Zach Peters won 8-0.
Tugman won 8-2 in his match over Ward Tanner.
The best singles match of the afternoon was between Elizabethton’s Peters and Johnson County’s Timmy Bellamy.
In the end, Bellamy won a hard fought 8-6 decision over Peters.
Bellamy went up a break early and basically played a clay-court style of match where he hit that extra shot and got to every ball.
The rallies in the match were very strong, but Bellamy used his speed and resilience to pull it off.
“In the beginning it was kind of uncoordinated and I wanted to end the point, but when I realized it was a tight match that I had to step it up and that’s when I started concentrating and focusing on my shots,” Bellamy said.
On the girls’ side, the No. 1 singles match was very intriguing as both Elizabethton’s Haley Thacker and Johnson County’s Holly Adams were playing their first matches as the No. 1 seed on their teams.
Thacker has had success, as she teamed up with Rita Basconi two years ago to reach the state tournament in doubles, and that experience proved to be too much in an 8-0 triumph over Adams.
Don’t be fooled though by the 8-0 score. Adams rallied well with Thacker and the Lady Cyclone standout took notice of her sophomore opponent.
“I’m not going to lie, she could actually hit the ball back and we had rallies, but I just wanted to make sure that I hit a winner,” Thacker said.
Thacker is now the go-to-player for the Lady Cyclones after playing behind Jessica Brumit for three years. Though she’s already an accomplished player, Thacker knows this is the year she is going to remember the most.
“I’m going to go as far as I can,” Thacker said. “I’m going to stay after practice and work. We’re trying to make state. That’s my goal.”
Christine Hardin defeated Krista Warren 8-0, Courtney Evans won by default, Hannah Hultshult knocked off Karissa Cornett 8-0, Hannah Sherrod won 8-2 over Dawn Lewis and Madison Boles defeated Deidra Blackburn 8-0.
In doubles, Thacker and Hardin won 8-0 over Warren and Adams, Evans and Hultshult took an 8-0 victory over Cornett and Blackburn and Hallie Collins and Alesha Sisk won 8-1 over Lewis and Taneisha Falls.