MURFREESBORO — Unicoi County doubled up at the TSSAA tennis state championships at Old Fort Park.
The Blue Devils’ Reed Jackson and Pascal Koch defeated Pigeon Forge’s Garrett Byrd and Alex Delozier 6-1, 6-2 in Friday’s Class A-AA boys’ doubles final. It gave Unicoi County two state championships for the week, adding to a team victory on Tuesday.
Mallory Jackson came up short in a girls’ singles final, losing 6-2, 6-3 to Skyler McDonald of Fayetteville. Likewise, Dobyns-Bennett freshman Josie Rogers lost in the Class AAA final 6-0, 6-2 to Siegel’s Ashlee Boles, and the Knoxville West duo Steven Patrick and Harrison Smith romped to a 6-1, 6-1 win over Tennessee High’s Matt Henson and Seth Buckmaster.
Koch, a foreign exchange student from Germany, said that Jackson turned out to be a perfect fit as doubles partner.
“It was a great experience. I’m happy I could play tennis here and have success,” Koch said. “Reed is a really good player and teammate. He saved me all the time, getting volleys. Reed is really fast and aggressive. Our mix is pretty good.”
The week capped off Jackson’s celebrated high school career. The senior ended a four-time state qualifier, twice in singles and twice in doubles, in addition to his team and doubles state championships.
“I really want to thank all my coaches. It’s been a great year, good all-around,” Jackson said. “It’s been the best year I’ve had, especially being a senior.”
His little sister, Mallory, struggled with her serve, losing a first set. Unforced errors were her downfall with four double-faults at crucial times in the first set.
“My serve was good the first match here, then it went downhill,” Jackson said. “It felt like I pulled a hamstring, so when I would serve, it would restrict me to go up for it. I just tried to keep the ball in, but she had a very good forehand.”
Jackson got up one game in the second set before McDonald rallied to win three straight games and take control.
“I would move her around a little, but she’s really good,” McDonald said. “I had to keep positive and keep my mind on playing as good as I could becasue she can put away a lot of balls.”
Making her second state tournament appearance, Jackson wasn’t too discouraged by the loss. She believes there will be a shot to win the state title as a junior or senior.
“It seemed to be a little easier than last time,” she said about returning to the state tournament. “It felt like everyone was pretty equal, and I felt I could have won today. Next time I come down here, I hope I’m not nervous because I felt like I beat myself.”
Rogers couldn’t get much going against Siegel’s polished junior. However, it was a better than expected run for Rogers, who came into the season not even expected to make it out of the region.
“I did what I wanted to,” Rogers said. “I played my game and did the best I could. It’s been an awesome year, the best year D-B has had in a long time. It’s exciting to be a part of that.”
Ravenwood players who eliminated Science Hill netters in the semifinal round, had easy final rounds.
The Lady Raptors’ Sean Karl, who beat the Hilltoppers’ Michael Chen on Thursday, took a 6-4, 6-1 win for the Class AAA boys’ singles title.
Lauren Caballero and Iris Hao of Ravenwood won 6-0, 6-0 in their Class AAA girls’ doubles final. Caballero called Thursday’s win over Science Hill’s Hope Forbush and Katie Deal the “real final,” talking about being tied 3-3 with the Lady ‘Toppers duo in the first set and then barely breaking a sweat in the championship round.