Johnson City Press Tuesday, September 2, 2014

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Science Hill tennis looks for return to state

March 21st, 2014 7:45 pm by Jeff Birchfield

The Science Hill tennis teams have eyes on returning to the state tournament, while a newcomer at Elizabethton is a favorite to win an individual state title.

Unicoi County hopes to add to its recent success at the state tournament, while Matt Henson of Tennessee High and Josie Rogers of Dobyns-Bennett look to improve from individual finishes of state runner-up and state semifinalist, respectively.

Johnson County is in a rebuilding mode after the graduation of District 1-A/AA champion Timmy Bellamy, while Happy Valley has started a girls tennis program under former Elizabethton standout Amanda Pike.

Science Hill, which saw both of its squads lose to Knox Catholic in last year’s Class AAA sectionals, returns four of its top players on the boys’ side. It would be five of six, but, Mason Sizemore recently suffered a season-ending injury.

Senior Colin Ice returns to the No. 1 spot for the Hilltoppers, but with a ton more confidence than a year ago.

“He’s got a real positive attitude,” Science Hill coach D.C. Smith raved. “He handled the No. 1 spot real well last year, but now with experience, he’s enthusiastic.”

Junior Thomas Young, described by Smith as a quiet leader who fights hard for the team, will be back in the No. 2 role.

Sophomore Parth Goenka, who played at No. 5 a year ago, moves up to No. 3 after working on his skill set in tournament tennis. Junior Cameron Martin, someone whom Smith said has a heart as big as a tennis court, will the No. 4 player. Sophomore Fulton Robinson has worked on some control issues with his stroke and brings a strong forehand to the No. 5 spot. Freshman Thomas Richardson currently fills out the varsity lineup, although fellow ninth-graders Zack Malone and Sam Sheehan could play some days.

Senior Hope Forbush takes over the No. 1 spot for the Science Hill girls after the graduation of Katie Deal, her doubles partner of the last two years. Together, Deal and Forbush were state runner-ups in 2012, and state semifinalists in 2013.

The tall and athletic Forbush is described by Smith as having a big heart and being a leader on the team. Her best attribute might be the way she’s embraced the senior role and working with the other girls

Jamison Reid, a junior, has jumped from No. 5 last season to playing at No. 2 this year. Avery Litton, also a junior, is at No. 3 after recovering from a foot injury.

Madison Trent, another junior, who won some big matches last year is the No. 4 player. Smith is still juggling the No. 5 and No. 6 positions, which are currently occupied by sophomore Mary Keaton-Steward and freshman Megan Martin.

Kristen Temple, a home-schooled student, is making good progress, while freshman Katalina Suvijana is also competing for a lineup spot.

Overall, Smith likes Science Hill’s chances this season to build on a tradition of five state championships.

“All the kids understand the tradition they are following,” Smith said. “They are a bunch of hard workers on both sides. The potential to be good is there. We’re really off to a good start.”

Elizabethton

Talk about the Cyclones begins with Danielle Vines, who won the 18-and-under Tennessee State Junior Qualifying Singles title last year as a 14-year-old.

Vines, a sophomore who is 26th in the USTA Girls 18 singles national rankings, served notice she was a favorite to win the TSSAA high school title by blanking 2012 Class A/AA runner-up Mallory Jackson 8-0 last week.

A consistent player who covers the court well, Cyclones coach Ken Hardin marveled at how Vines is able to dictate how her opponent plays. 

Hannah Hulshult is at No. 2 with junior Halle Collins at No. 3. First-year senior Lindsey Fowler, a tall southpaw, is No. 4 with sophomore Rachel Peters and first-year senior Miranda Isaacs currently playing in the No. 5 and No. 6 slots.

Lexi Wright and Catie Hill could also play some varsity matches.

On the boys’ side, the Cyclones are off to a 3-0 start behind the strong play of senior Caleb Bailey and junior Logan Birchfield leading the way. They were on opposite sides at last year’s District 1-A/AA championships.

Bailey and Nick Honeycutt teamed to beat Birchfield and Joe Casey, 6-1, 3-6, 6-3 in the final. Bailey has played at No. 1 twice this season, while Birchfield played at No. 1 against Volunteer.

Senior Jordan Simerly and freshman Zeb Moore are No. 3 and No. 4, respectively, while first-year seniors Luke Hughes and Michael Fowler fill out the next two spots. Seniors Isaiah Oliver and Jacob Hill also could work their way into the lineup.

Unicoi County

Mallory Jackson, a state runner-up as a sophomore and a state doubles champion with Nela Hokova as a junior last season, is the Lady Devils’ No. 1 girls’ player.

Jackson recently signed to play at Carson-Newman. The No. 2 spot is held down by Rosie McVeigh, a University High student who plays for Unicoi since her school doesn’t offer tennis.

Emily Lynch, a junior who won the clinching match for Unicoi County against Cumberland Gap in last year’s regional championship, is at No. 3. Senior Morgan Rice plays at No. 4, with junior Kamille Harris and senior Carly Davis filling out the varsity roster.

The boys’ team features seniors Conly Shults and Nic Chambers, who are holdovers from the Blue Devils’ 2012 state championship team. Shults, who has signed with Milligan College, was runner-up in the District 1-A/AA tournament last season. 

Chambers, who recently signed a basketball scholarship with Milligan, plays a No. 2, with one of his roundball teammates, senior Sam Wilder, now in the No. 3 spot.

Farris Bailey, another senior, plays at No. 4 with freshman Randall Cooper and sophomore Jake Goodwin filling out the varsity lineup.

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