Jackson captures fourth region title

Jeff Birchfield • May 12, 2014 at 8:51 PM

GREENEVILLE — Mallory Jackson’s high school tennis career will end in Murfreesboro.

For the Unicoi County senior, it’s a familiar place.

It’s where Jackson teamed with Seline Koch and lost a hard-fought state quarterfinals match as a freshman, where she advanced to the state singles championship as a sophomore and where she won a state doubles title with Nela Holkova last season.

This time, Jackson will team with Emily Lynch after the Lady Devils duo defeated the Sullivan South sister team of Brianna and Caitlin Barrett 6-3, 6-1 for the Region 1-A/AA girls’ doubles championship on Monday at the Greeneville Tennis Center.

Other champions crowned were: Danielle Vines of Elizabethton in girls’ singles, David Worley of South Greene in boys’ singles, and Griffin Leonard and Patrick Cawood of Greeneville in boys’ doubles.

As for Jackson, the TSSAA Spring Fling was a destination she had her sights on all season.

“I wanted to go to state really bad this year,” Jackson said. “It will be my fourth year there and no matter what happens I’m just excited that we got to go. Hopefully, we will be able to do well once we get there.”

Lynch, a junior, is thrilled to be playing alongside Jackson for her final state championships appearance.

“I’m definitely excited and I hope we do well,” Lynch said. “We keep on getting better and better working together. We hope to continue to improve before state. Mallory has helped me all throughout the matches. I can always turn to her and she always helps me.”

It’s the kind of help Jackson has often received from her own family. She and five older siblings -- Leonard, Brooke, Tyler, Drew and Reed -- have built quite the family tradition on the local courts.

Sister, Brooke, even served as an assistant at the Air Force Academy.

“We’re always known as a tennis family around Erwin,” Jackson said. “We’ve brought in exchange students who have played. My mom (Ruth) loves to help with the team and she always wants what is best for Unicoi. I’m happy our family was able to do all that. I’m so excited I was able to finish out a good year and at least get to state.”

She and Lynch will be joined there by Vines, who has a perfect run going in her first season of high school tennis.

The Elizabethton sophomore, who has made a name for herself on the USTA circuit, hasn’t lost a game, let alone a set or a match, the entire season. McKenna Smith of Sullivan North was a 6-0, 6-0 final-round victim for the second time in two weeks on Monday.

While Vines hasn’t faced much of a challenge this season, she has enjoyed the experience of competing for the Cyclones. She’s especially looking forward to her first trip to Murfreesboro and being a part of the Spring Fling.

“It’s going to be fun because a lot of people pay attention to high school tennis,” Vines said. “I’ll have some pressure, but I’ve really enjoyed high school tennis so far. I think I’ll enjoy the state too. I just hope I can represent Elizabethton well.”

Worley, a South Greene junior, beat Unicoi County senior Conly Shults 6-2, 6-2 in another rematch of a District 1-A/AA final. Worley was able to negate Shults’ long wingspan by hitting away from Shults when he charged the net. He also came out on top of their occasional rallies to earn a state berth.

“It’s a huge deal, an honor to be able to go as a junior,” Worley said. “First time at state, my heart is still racing.”

It marked the end of a celebrated high school career for Shults, who helped push Unicoi County to the 2012 state team championship as a sophomore.

“Definitely going to the state my sophomore year, that was probably one of the highlights of my high school days, not just tennis,” Shults said. “It was amazing. Just going to state with them, being able to hang out with them and to play tennis all week, that was something special. I really loved that team and I will never forget that.”

Before losing in the final, Shults defeated Greeneville’s Logan Dickerson 7-5, 7-5 in a tough semifinal match.

It was the semifinal round where the road ended for Elizabethton team of Caleb Bailey and Logan Birchfield. They lost 6-3, 6-2 to Cawood and Leonard, who in turn beat Boone Wallace and T.J. Ellis of Sullivan East 6-2, 6-2 in the final.

Bailey, a senior, talked about wrapping his high school career which included a district doubles title with Nick Honeycutt a year ago.

“Technically, this was my second sport, but I enjoyed it more than football,” Bailey said. “There is less wear on your body and it’s more relaxed. I’ve enjoyed playing with various people and it’s been fun for me.

“You set your goals in moderation if that makes sense. You win the point, win the game, win the set and win the match. You just play it point-by-point and go from there. It’s sad to be going out right now, but I had a good time doing it.”

For Monday’s winners, their season will continue next Thursday at the state individual championships in Murfreesboro.

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