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Science Hill's Nickels among regional champs

Pat Kenney • Updated May 13, 2019 at 7:57 PM

KINGSPORT — With berths in the upcoming state tournament at stake, blustery conditions for Monday’s TSSAA Region 1 large school individual tennis playoffs did nothing to deter the players from the task at hand.

Dobyns-Bennett’s girls doubles team of Lainey Hill and Sydney Berry cruised to a 6-2, 6-2 win over Science Hill’s Kara Lucchesi and Allie Torbett in the finals to punch their ticket to Murfreesboro.

In the boys’ singles, the Hilltoppers’ Griffen Nickels disposed of Sevier County’s Caden Arnold 6-3, 6-1 to earn his berth in the state tournament.

Tennessee High was a double winner with Lady Vikings freshman Keona Fielitz downing Science Hill’s Allie Knox 6-1, 6-0 in the girls’ singles finals. The Tennessee High boys’ doubles team of David Beiger and Hagan Oakley upended Science Hill’s Jacob Johnson and Drew Keith 6-0, 6-4 to advance to the state tournament.

For D-B’s Hill, this marked the fourth straight year she will play in the TSSAA state tournament. She qualified for the singles competition her first two years and has now made it in the double bracket two years in a row. Last year she and partner Willa Rogers made it all the way to the state championship match. Rogers had to pull out of the doubles a month ago because of a family commitment during this year’s state tournament so Hill joined with teammate Sydney Berry to form a new partnership.

“Sydney really stepped up,” said Hill. “We knew coming in that the Science Hill girls were a good team and we couldn’t be the ones making the unforced errors.”

Berry was pleased with the way she and Hill played the big points in the match.

“We had a lot of deuce points go our way,” said Berry. “And I thought I served well today, that was a key.”

The short-lived partnership has worked well for both players.

“Only together for a month and now I’m headed to the state tournament, that’s exciting,” added Berry.

Hill concurred.

“I’m really grateful to have this opportunity again,” said Hill. “Going to state four years in a row is special.”

The Hilltoppers’ Nickels was in an early battle with Arnold in the final, but once he broke clear it was clear sailing.

“I watched him a little in his semifinal match and saw some of the things he was doing,” said Nickels. “The wind was certainly an issue, but we both had to deal with it so that really wasn’t a factor.

“The difference today for me was all the support from my teammates, family and friends. That really helped.”

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