Science Hill’s dynamic duo of Katie Deal and Hope Forbush are headed back to Murfressboro with a goal of one-upping their performance of last season.
The Lady ‘Toppers pair, who finished state runner-up a year ago, earned a state tournament berth on Monday afternoon with a 6-1, 6-0 victory over Dobyns-Bennett’s Katie Heidt and Sarah Testerman in the Region 1-AAA individual tennis championships at the Liberty Bell Tennis Complex.
“We’ve been trying to take it one match at a time,” said Deal, a senior. “It seems like the harder we work going into the state, the easier it becomes against high-caliber opponents. I’m very proud of the way we played in this tournament, all we’ve done on and off the court to make ourselves a better doubles team.”
They had a well-rounded effort, combining talent, chemistry and the experience of playing together in doubles competition for two years.
“We both share a lot of styles that complement each other,” said Forbush, a junior. “We can talk and communicate back and forth in a good way.”
Other champions crowned on Monday were: Dobyns-Bennett’s Josie Rogers in girls’ singles, the D-B tandem of Kaleb Pittman and Kevin Peterson in boys’ doubles and Matt Henson of Tennessee High in boys’ singles
While Science Hill’s Leah Eddy was somewhat able to handle Rogers’ powerful serve, the ground strokes were another story. Rogers scored a majority of points in a 6-0, 6-0 win off her second and third strokes.
“We’ve put in a lot of work on the ground strokes to get ready for this,” Rogers said. “I tried to work the point and get the advantage so that I could put away her short ball.”
Eddy agreed it was those second and third shots which gave her fits.
“I was hitting hard with her, but I don’t get a lot of practice in, hitting it back,” Eddy said. “It makes me more inconsistent, but she hits the ball really well from the ground, from the baseline. I’m a little sad to see it come to an end, but I know Josie will do really well down at the state.”
Coming off a state runner-up finish last season, Rogers was pleased to win a second regional title and earn a return trip to Murfreesboro.
“I’m really excited because I was worried, not knowing who would be here today,” Rogers said. “I’m excited about state although I’m trying not to go in with too many expectations, but just go in with a clear head.”
Pittman and Peterson scored a hard-fought win over the Science Hill duo of Colin Ice and Thomas Young for the boys’ doubles crown. After losing the first set on a tiebreaker, the D-B pair started playing closer to the net to take a 6-7 (5), 6-4, 6-1 victory.
“We were up 5-1 in the first set and they came back on us,” Pittman said. “We knew we had to get a little more aggressive.”
Peterson added, “We had to keep our cool and stay confident. We thought of some strategy and started trying to hit it to their backhand more than their forehand. We tried some different stuff and it worked.”
Henson rallied from losing the first two games of his match to take a 6-3, 6-2 decision over Sullivan South’s Jimmy Nuckolls. It came only four days after Henson edged Nuckols for the district title in a three-set marathon that went two days thanks to a rain-delay.
“It felt good to play a regular match, regular time, just normal,” Henson said. “I felt more consistent, like I had more control today. Jimmy didn’t play his best, but he’s still a great player. I got a little shaky at the start, but I just had to keep my head in it and fight for it.”
Individual state championships are scheduled to begin next Thursday with the championship round scheduled for next Friday morning.