(Photos by Lee Talbert/Johnson City Press)
Even on a sunny day, the weather had an adverse effect on the Science Hill tennis team.
The Hilltoppers were short-handed after their match with Dobyns-Bennett was rescheduled from its original date until Thursday evening. Both No. 1 boys’ player Colin Ice and No. 3 girls’ player Avery Litton had to miss the match due to prior commitments.
With those two absent, Dobyns-Bennett took a 5-4 victory in the boys’ match and a 7-2 win in the girls’ match.
The boys match went to the wire before the Indians’ No. 3 doubles team of Matthew Parnell and Michael Bennett clinched with an 8-2 victory over Fulton Robinson and Thomas Richardson.
Kaleb Pittman set the tone for the Dobyns-Bennett boys early with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Thomas Young in No. 1 singles. Kiernan Toonies, at No. 6, added to the team advantage with a 6-0, 6-0 shutout of Sam Sheehan.
The Hilltoppers battled back with No. 3 Cameron Martin taking a 6-1, 7-5 win over Gabe Valk. Then, sophomore Parth Goenka pulled out a 6-3, 2-6, 6-3 win over Kevin Peterson after moving up to the No. 2 spot.
“It helps my confidence a lot,” Goenka said. “I won’t lie. I was a little nervous coming out. I had played three all season, but I just gave it my all and played my game. It worked out for me.”
It proved to be a tough matchup for both players before Goenka’s strong forehand and emerging backhand proved to be the difference.
Parnell then scored a 6-4, 6-0 win over Thomas Richardson at No. 5 singles, but the Hilltoppers’ No. 4 Fulton Robinson tied it with a 6-3, 2-6, 6-4 win over T.J. Wallace.
The top two doubles teams split. The Indians’ Pittman and Peterson rolled to an 8-0 win over Goenka and Sheehan. Science Hill’s Young and Martin countered with an 8-4 win over Valk and Wallace which led to the decisive No. 3 match.
On the girls’ side, two-time defending Region 1 champion Josie Rogers handed Science Hill’s Hope Forbush her first ever loss in conference play.
With her powerful ground strokes, Rogers cruised in the first set before Forbush finally caught up with her pace in the second set.
“She got to everything,” Rogers said after a 6-0, 7-5 win. “The points got longer and I wasn’t expecting it. So, the match got a lot closer. She is a really good player. It’s always fun to play Science Hill because they have some really good players.”
Rogers, who was state runner-up two years ago and a semifinalist last season, feels she’s in a good position to make another deep run in the postseason.
“I’m where I was last year, hopefully a little bit further,” Rogers said. “Everybody at state is good, but I know everybody here will be good so I’m taking it one step at a time.”
Forbush, who teamed with the since-graduated Katie Deal to win the last two Region 1 doubles titles, led much of the second set. Her mental toughness was on display with the way she was able to bounce back from nothing going right in the first set.
“I tried to keep my head on straight the whole match,” Forbush said. “I finally got used to her pace and got in a rhytym.”
Still, Rogers was able to keep Forbush off balance just enough with some well-placed strokes. In the end, both had reason to celebrate. Rogers scored the win, while Forbush was able to compete with the area’s top Class AAA player.
“I had to scramble for a lot of points,” Forbush said. “I just tried to get every ball back and take advantage of the short balls. That started to work so I was pretty excited about it.”
D-B was able to clinch the match in singles play. The Lady Indians’ Sarah Testerman at No. 2 and Macy Miller at No. 6 cruised to straight-set wins over Jamison Reid and Megan Martin, respectively, while other singles matches went down to the wire.
Science Hill’s No. 3 Madison Trent won a marathon first-set 7-6 (12) against Aslan Addington before winning 6-1 in the second set.
The Lady Indians countered with McKenzie Miller winning 4-6, 7-5, 6-1 over Kristen Temple and Emily Smith winning 6-1, 4-6, 7-5 over the Lady Hilltoppers’ Mary Keaton Steward.
D-B also won two of the three doubles matches with Stewart and Martin gaining the lone Science Hill victory.