MURFREESBORO -- Three Science Hill netters made the state semifinals, while three Unicoi County players advanced to the finals at the Thursday’s TSSAA BlueCross Spring Fling individual tennis championships at Old Fort Park.
Science Hill senior Michael Chen pushed two-time state champion Sean Karl of Ravenwood to the limit before coming up short in a 6-3,1-6, 6-1 decision.
Science Hill’s Katie Deal and Hope Forbush fell 6-3, 6-1 to defending state champions Lauren Caballero and Iris Hao of Ravenwood in the Class AAA girls’ doubles semfinals. It came after Deal and Forbush beat White Station’s Kasey Silman and Elissa Grave Todd 6-1, 6-2 in the quarterfinals.
Unicoi County’s three to make the the finals were Pascal Koch and Reed Jackson in boys’ doubles, and Mallory Jackson in girls’ singles.
When Chen was asked if there was any redemption after losing 6-0, 6-0 to Karl in last year’s state final, he was quick to answer.
“I’ll be frank, there is no redemption because I lost,” Chen said. “At the end of the day if you lose, there is no such thing as redemption. If you come out there wanting to win and it doesn’t happen, you’re disappointed.”
Chen changed his strategy to win the second set, taking his time and being patient.
“Every time I got an opportunity, I took it and got the momentum and carried through the second set,” he said.
A new tube of tennis balls were opened to play the third set, and Karl, the USTA’s No. 13-ranked player for his age group, used them to his advantage.
“I thought I had the momentum going and then the new balls, he just started out firing and I never could get it back,” Chen said.
A strange turn of events took place in the Class AAA girls semifinal as Dobyns-Bennett freshman Josie Rogers advanced to the final when Kayla Thomas of Memphis White Station, took a medical timeout and soon afterwards withdrew with breathing troubles.
“I knew she was pretty tired, but I was shocked,” Rogers said. “I went into the Kayla match with no pressure because we knew she was such an amazing player. I was just trying to play my game and hold my own.”
Tennessee High’s Seth Buckmaster and Matt Henson advanced to the finals in boys’ doubles. It marks the third straight year, the Vikings have a team in the championship match, following Conner Knox and Owen Rockett making it the past two season.
Reed Jackson and Koch easily won their two matches to make the boys’ doubles final.
They dispatched of Greenbrier’s Grant Maddox and Steven Huffine 6-1, 6-1 in the quarterfinals before beating David Ide and Paul Sands of Madison 6-2, 6-2 in the semifinals.
“Once we got into playing, we pretty much killed it,” Koch said. “I’m excited to play for the state championship. We’ve already won (the) team (title), so maybe we can also win doubles.”
They will play Garrett Byrd and Alex Delozier of Pigeon Forge in today’s final scheduled for noon.
The Blue Devils’ Mallory Jackson gutted out a pair of tough wins in the girls’ singles competition. She was victorious 7-6 (5), 7-5 over Elizabeth Clayton in the quarterfinals. She advanced to the state championship with a 6-2, 0-6, 6-4 victory over Ali Harris of Stone Memorial.
Jackson, a sophomore, will face Skyler McDonald, an eighth-grader from Fayetteville, in a final scheduled for 10 a.m.
“I’m really excited. Last year, my doubles partner and I lost in the first round,” Jackson said. “This year, I wasn’t really expecting this.
“I still need more consistency because my serve is off bad. I’m just keeping the ball in play and letting the other person make mistakes.”
Jaspal Mahal of Greeneville made it to the semfinal round, while Chuckey-Doak’s Jordan Murphy and Makaela Bowman lost 6-4, 6-1 in their quarterfinal match.