Jacksons lead Unicoi victory tour in A-AA tennis

Jeff Birchfield • May 15, 2012 at 10:35 PM

GREENEVILLE — Instead of the Jackson 5, it was the Jackson 2 leading Unicoi County on a victory tour at Tuesday’s Region 1-A/AA individual tennis championships at the Greene County Tennis Center.

Mallory Jackson rolled through the girls’ singles competition, while her older brother, Reed, teamed with Paschal Koch to take the boys’ doubles crown.

Mallory Jackson won 6-1, 6-2 over Summer Robinson of West Greene in the semifinals, and then used a strong forehand to romp past Claiborne’s Lindsey Jones 6-0, 6-0.

Despite the lopsided wins, the left-handed sophomore still saw room for improvement.

“My forehand was working for me today,” she said. “My backhand is OK, but it’s a little shaky. I also feel my serve is shaky from where I haven’t been hitting in a long time. Otherwise, I was playing well and I’m really excited to go to state.”

Her brother, a senior, teamed with Koch to rally past Jordan Hite and Malcolm Blair of Greeneville 6-3, 6-2.

Coming back from a 3-0 deficit in the first set, Reed Jackson earned a fourth state tournament berth, twice in singles and now twice in doubles.

“It’s really exciting (to go to state) because I feel it’s a good opportunity to win,” Jackson said. “Pascal is a really good player. We’re a pretty tough team to beat so I hope we can beat everybody there.”

Koch, a foreign exchange student from Germany, looks at next week’s competition in Murfreesboro as a big unknown.

“I’m really excited to go,” Koch said. “I don’t know how the state is at all. I don’t know what the level (of competition) is going to be at. I hope we can win as much as we can.”

The Blue Devils made the finals of all four categories with Greeneville’s Jaspal Mahal beating Matt Holka 6-3, 6-2, in boys’ singles, and the Chuckey-Doak girls’ doubles team of Jordan Murphy and Makela Bowman rallying to beat Jackie Cordes and Lexus Morley 6-7 (2), 7-5, 6-4.

Besides losing the tiebreaker in the first set, the C-D team fought back from a 5-3, 40-love deficit in the second set. Cordes and Morley had their own rally in the final set, down 5-2 before winning two games to close the margin.

“We’ve definitely had a good day with three advancing to the state,” Unicoi County head coach Michael Smith said. “Matt, with a knee problem, I felt like he couldn’t move enough to play with Jaspal who is a really good player. Lexus and Jackie, they exceeded my expectations based on how the season went. They were runner-up to a very good team from Chuckey-Doak.”

For a pair of Elizabethton doubles teams, elimination came in the semifinals.

Hite and Blair defeated the Cyclones boys’ tandem of Landon Jones and Andy Bowers 6-2, 6-3. On the girls’ side, Murphy and Bowman dispatched of Thacker and Christine Hardin 6-2, 6-2.

Making it to the regional round was a goal in itself for Elizabethton.

“It’s big, especially with the girls since we had very few experienced players,” Cyclones head coach Kenny Hardin said. “It was big for the guys also, a good experience overall. When you get to the region, everybody can play, there are several good teams like Greeneville, Unicoi, and Chuckey-Doak proved how good their girls were.”

Only Christine Hardin will be back for the Cyclones next season as the other three are scheduled to graduate.

It also was the end of the line for Johnson County’s Carlton Tugman. The Longhorns’ celebrated senior lost 6-3, 6-1 to Mahal in the semifinals.

Next season will be the first time in seven years one of the Tugman brothers, Wade or Carlton, won’t be stepping on the court for the Longhorns.

“The most fun time was my first two years when we played doubles together,” Tugman said. “The last two was a little different being by myself, but I feel I’ve had a pretty good career.

“After I leave, I feel we still have some great players like Timmy Bellamy and others. They’re getting better every year. I hope the team at Johnson County keeps rising up.”

For the regional champions, the state quarterfinals begin next Thursday at noon.

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