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SEVIERVILLE — Michael Chen wasted no time in Wednesday’s Region 1-AAA individual tennis championships at Sevierville City Park.
The Science Hill senior won his semifinal match 6-0, 6-0 over Will Jones of Sevier County, and then moved up his final against Jimmy Nuckolls of Sullivan South by 30 minutes.
Chen didn’t fool around then either, winning 6-1, 6-1 to earn his fourth state championships appearance.
“It was an hour and a half drive to here, so I just wanted to stay focused and play every match the same way,” Chen said. “I wanted to get done as soon as possible.”
On a day when District 1 swept District 2, no one was better than Chen, who felt it was important to keep the momentum going.
“I felt my all-around game was good,” he said. “Usually, if one thing is falling into place, then everything is falling. Everything works in order, and that’s how it went. I’ve been to state so many times, so I want to win it.”
Katie Deal and Hope Forbush also earned berths for Science Hill in next week’s state championships, while Hilltopper teammates Alison Storie and the team of Ryan Becker and Ryland Byrd came up one spot short.
Deal and Forbush hammered Ashley Codispotti and Christine Shirley of Jefferson County 6-0, 6-0 in the semifinals and stayed on track with a 6-2, 6-0 win over Tennessee High’s Meg Leonard and Jenny Dollinger in the final.
It is a second state tournament appearance for the junior Deal, who made it to the championship round with Mary Grace Burchfield last season.
“We’re so excited to be representing our school,” Deal said. “It was a letdown not making it as a team this year, but we want to do a good job for Science Hill as a doubles team.”
Forbush, a sophomore, will be making her first appearance in the individual championships.
“Katie and I are really in sync right now,” Forbush said. “We’re playing together well and are communicating well. We’re doing what we need to do to be able to win. I’m excited to go to state since I haven’t been there before individually. It was really disappointing not to go as a team, but I feel Katie and I are going to get things done in Murfreesboro.”
Byrd and Becker battled hard, particularly in the second set against Tennessee High’s Seth Buckmaster and Matt Henson before ultimately falling 6-2, 7-5.
As expected, the best match of the day pitted Storie against Dobyns-Bennett freshman Josie Rogers, who ended her three-year reign as District 1-AAA champion a week ago.
Storie, who had won two of the last three regional titles, beat 2010 Region 1-AAA champion Summer Bowlin of Morristown West, 6-0, 6-1 in the semifinal.
In a true championship battle, Rogers won 6-7 (5), 6-1, 6-4 to end a spectacular high school career for Storie, who was state runner-up in 2009 and also led Science Hill to a team championship. It also meant the final high school match of three Storie siblings — John, Diane and Alison — who were a pair of four team state championships and one doubles state championship for Science Hill.
“I remember Alison had four match points against her at the state championship and came through and won that match for us,” Science Hill head coach Pete Zannis said. “She’s played some awesome matches, including today, which could have went either way. She has represented the school amazingly, as did John and Diane. They always were great to work with, gave 100 percent, and did their best. There isn’t much better you can say about somebody than that.”
Rogers continued her mastery of the girls’ singles bracket, winning for the fourth time in five tries against Storie this season.
After losing a closely-contested tiebreaker in the first set, Rogers was finally able to break Storie’s serve in the second set. The two battled tooth-and-nail in a back-and-forth final set.
“It was a confidence booster,” Rogers said about finally breaking her opponent’s serve. “But she got better at returning my serve, too. This match was all or nothing. It’s awesome to go to the state tournament as a freshman. I get to go down there with no expectations and can play my game.”
The state championship quarterfinals are scheduled to begin next Thursday at 9 a.m.