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Unicoi County duo wins state doubles championship

Jeff Birchfield • May 23, 2014 at 11:06 PM

MURFREESBORO — Mallory Jackson made school history for Unicoi County after she and doubles partner Emily Lynch lived through a full range of emotions at the Class A/AA girls’ doubles tennis championship at Old Fort Park.

The Blue Devils duo won Friday’s championship match 6-4, 1-6, 7-5 over Knoxville Grace Christian’s Lexie Hill and Shelby Rodgers after a wild third set. Jackson and Lynch pulled ahead 5-1 before losing the next four games.

Still, the Unicoi pair had a chance to close it out at 5-4 with Jackson serving before she double-faulted twice. However, they were able to recover and quickly take control of the final two games.

“We were happy one minute, nervous the next and then mad,” Lynch said. “We went through all the emotions and I was so nervous they were going to come back and beat us. When Mallory hit the final shot, I knew she had it. I was just so happy she got it in.”

It was a second straight doubles title for Jackson and her third straight appearance in the final after finishing runner-up as a singles player in 2012. Jackson teamed with Nela Holkova for last year’s title, and Lynch was actually the third doubles partner with whom Jackson has played at the state tournament.

“It’s more exciting to come down here and do it with different partners,” Jackson said.

It’s always been exciting for Jackson, who became the first Unicoi County athlete to win back-to-ba ck state championships in any sport since pole vaulter Brittany Higgins in 2005-06. She is the school’s only tennis player to ever repeat.

She talked about how it’s not always been easy, how there have been struggles. At times, the sport has even taken a physical toll on her body.

“I’m just happy I’ve been able to play through ankle injuries where I tore my achilles tendon,” Jackson said. “It’s been a rough ride at times to get here. But, I’ve just been so blessed I’ve been able to play and play well. I’m so happy that we won.”

In addition to the instruction of Unicoi County head coach Jonathan Kenney, the girls also credited, Bob Helton, the tennis pro at The Virginian, for teaching Lynch a drop shot which she used effectively at crucial times of Friday’s match.

Another doubles team from Northeast Tennessee besides Jackson and Lynch also celebrated a state championship win.

Tennessee High’s Matt Henson and Jacob Marshall won the Class AAA boys’ double title 6-0, 6-2 over Joe and Thomas George of Germantown. It was the second state title for the Vikings duo this week. On Tuesday, Henson and Marshall, playing at No. 1 and No. 2, led Tennessee High to its second team tennis title in the last four years.

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