MILLIGAN COLLEGE — All even through doubles, the Unicoi County girls’ tennis team couldn’t keep pace with Christian Academy of Knoxville in singles play on Thursday afternoon at Milligan College.
The Lady Warriors (11-5) defeated the Lady Blue Devils 4-2 in the Class A/AA sectional match to earn a seventh straight berth in next week’s state tournament at Murfreesboro. With its first loss, Unicoi County ended the season at 12-1.
“I’m proud of the team, especially the fact it’s against CAK, who all the girls are familiar with,” Unicoi head coach Elizabeth Pruitt said. “Mallory (Jackson) and Nela (Holkova) have both played against their top two multiple times. CAK’s last match was 4-0, so for us to get two points on them is an accomplishment as a team.”
Holkova and Jackson got the first point in doubles play with an 8-5 win over Leighton Porter and Holly Chastain at No. 1 doubles. It evened the score after CAK’s No. 2 doubles team of Lauren Valeriano and Caroline Murchison had taken an 8-1 decision over Lexis Morley and Emily Lynch.
CAK, which lost 4-3 to Chattanooga Notre Dame in last season’s state championship match, had the advantage in singles. Valeriano made quick work of Morley 6-0, 6-0 and then Murchison gave the Lady Warriors a 3-1 advantage with a 6-2, 6-0 decision over Lynch.
The No. 2 singles barely finished with Holkova taking a 6-0, 6-2 win over Chastain when Delaney Dean won 6-2, 6-1 in the No. 5 singles match over Camille Harris to end the overall match. The No. 1 singles between Porter and Jackson wasn’t completed, although Unicoi’s season was.
Still, the Lady Devils’ head coach was able to look back at the season with a sense of accomplishment. In particular, she pointed out last week’s grind-it-out 4-3 regional championship win when Lynch, at No. 4 singles, scored the winning point.
“I still think last week when they played Cumberland Gap, that was a big one,” Pruitt said. “It came down to Emily’s match and we were 3-3. That was the highlight of the season, especially for Emily being a sophomore. It makes her excited for next year with what she can do.”
It is a young team which Unicoi should return next season with Jackson, who will be a senior, expected to lead the way. Their head coach already has high expectations in place.
“I would obviously love for them to go to state as a team next year,” Pruitt said. “But, I expect no less than this point next year.”