By Matt Hill
ERWIN — The Elizabethton Boys Tennis Team was looking to force a playoff with Unicoi County on Wednesday at Fishery Park, but the Blue Devils wanted to seal the deal.
The Cyclones gave a great effort, but fell 6-3 to the Blue Devils and as a result UCHS wraps up the league title.
Elizabethton did not down without a fight. Just ask Andy Bowers.
Bowers played an outstanding match against one of the best players in the state in foreign exchange student Matt Holka, and fell 8-3 in what was a solid performance.
Holka is the No. 2 seed in the upcoming District singles tournament behind Johnson County’s Carlton Tugman. Holka is the No. 3 seed on the team behind Pascal Hock and Reed Jackson, but would probably be the No. 1 for most teams around.
Holka has a punishing serve that most people can’t return and despite having injury troubles most of the year, might be ready for a major run.
Bowers’ performance was admirable, as he was able to rally with Holka and win a few games.
“He was very good,” Bowers said. “I didn’t expect anything less from him. He just proved it to me and everybody else here.
“I was very pleased. I thought I played pretty well. I just made some stupid errors on my part and he made every shot that I hit count. He hit winners and I couldn’t do anything about it. He was hitting really great shots.
It was a tough day at the top for Elizabethton, as in addition to Bowers, Jackson defeated Zach Peters 8-0 and at the No. 1 spot Koch took down Ward Tanner 8-2.
Conly Shults added an 8-1 win over Landon Jones in singles, plus UCHS won two of the three doubles with Zach Treadway and Caleb Bailey preventing the sweep with an 8-2 triumph over Caleb McNeese and Nic Chambers.
Tyler Lee won 8-2 over McNeese in singles for EHS and Ryan Pinkerman knocked off Chambers 8-4
Unicoi, like it has all year, had everything clicking whether it was the serve or their powerful groudstrokes. The top seeds were too much for EHS to handle.
“I’m really proud of how hard the guys played, and they made a lot of good shots and we ran up against a team that not only has had it every day in practice, but they took it to an extra level that we have not seen. They didn’t take it as another match. They took it serious and they were truly winners on every court that they won. They fought for every point, and they hit the shots when they needed to.”
Now the Cyclones have to turn around and get ready for today’s District Tournament, and though this is a hard one to take, there was probably no better preparation for the event than to play these boys in a match.
“Mentally it could be a little tough because we’re facing a loss, but you have to look at it as we’re never going to get practice like this at one of our regular every day practices. This really gives us that experience to get us through those first rounds, and to get to our ultimate goal, which are the finals, and from there you play one match at a time.”
Brumit is really proud of the boys’ success and for the hard work they have put in and for the fine young men they are becoming.
“There’s not one player on this team that started off as a tennis player,” he said. “They were in different sports and they came together and all of them have worked hard. They hit in the summer, they hit after practice, and they really earned second place to a team that very well should go to state.
“I am proud of all my kids this and the ones who have played in the past and we need to keep this going with the younger kids and just keep working hard.