Lady Rebels win second state tennis title
Riverside's girls brought home the Class 2A State Championship for the second time in three years by sweeping both the singles and doubles finals Wednesday afternoon at Allen Park in Jonesboro.
Lady Rebel Anna Brickell took home the individual title by knocking off three-time state runner-up Emily Young of Ridgefield Christian in straight sets, 6-0, 6-4. Brickell had lost to Young in their previous three meetings, but the freshman sensation was not to be denied this time. Brickell jumped on Young early in the first set and went on to shut out the senior 6-0.
Young fought back in the second set, winning the first two games to take a 2-0 lead, but Brickell charged back to take a 3-2 advantage. Young evened things, winning the sixth game, before Brickell edged ahead once more by winning the seventh game. Young leveled the set 4-4 when she broke Brickell's serve in the eighth game. Brickell bolted to a 40-15 lead in the ninth game, but Young battled back to tie the game at deuce. Brickell finally won the point when Young hit her return into the net, putting her just one game away from the state championship.
Brickell hammered three consecutive aces to take a 40-0 lead in the decisive game. Young staved off one match point, but her overhead attempt on the next point sailed into the net, giving Brickell the state title.
"I came out with big expectations and just kept telling myself that it's right there, don't give up," Brickell said. "I told myself to just reach out and grab it. Emily is a great opponent. I just tried my best and came out on top this time."
Brickell gave credit to both Riverside Coach Terry Conner as well as her father, Mike Brickell, who has coached her throughout her career.
Brickell breezed through her first two matches, winning both by identical straight set scores of 6-0, 6-0. The semifinals proved tougher for Brickell, who dropped the first set, 5-7. But the freshman rallied, taking the next two sets, 6-1, 7-5, for a berth in the finals.
It was an all Riverside final in the doubles championship. Lady Rebel Taylor Boness teamed with Kyley Campbell to claim her second state title over teammates Beth Anne Snyder and Lauren Weaver. Boness had teamed with Holly Dudley to take the 2008 title against another Riverside duo of Morgan Emery and Kyley's sister, Katey Campbell.
"It feels really great," Boness said. "We brought home the team championship, and that's what really matters. It's definitely a happy, happy moment. I am so excited for all of us."
"We played some of our best tennis in this tournament," Campbell added.
Boness and Campbell received a first round bye before defeating the Gurdon team of Trout and Clark, 6-0, 6-0. The Riverside duo reached the finals by stopping Crowley's Ridge Academy's Audrey Jane Hicks and Ashlin Abbott in straight sets, 6-0, 7-5.
Weaver and Snyder reached the finals, winning their first round match 6-0, 6-1, over the Guy Perkins team of Halk and McLaughlin. The Riverside duo downed the East Poinsett County pair of Ross and Hinton, 7-5, 6-2 in the quarterfinals, before winning their semifinal match 6-4, 6-4, over the Parkers Chapel team of Jerry and Hayes.
Riverside's Rebecca Frayer also competed in singles, winning her first match 6-0, 6-1, over Alliza Sullivan of Cedar Ridge. Unfortunately for Frayer, she ran into Young in the quarter finals, dropping the match in straight sets, 6-2, 6-2.
The Rebel boys had four players in the tournament, led by the doubles team of Josh Anderson and Jake Love, who won their opening match 7-6, 6-0, over the team of Pitts and Phillips of Marked Tree. The Rebel teammates ran into a buzz saw in the semifinals, losing to eventual state champion Daniel Meador and Nathan Weir of Union Christian, 6-0, 6-3.
Rebel Logan Meurer won his first round match in singles play downing Dustin Simpson of Gurdon, 6-2, 6-0, before dropping a quarterfinal match to Drew Dodge of Conway Christian, 6-1, 6-2.
Riverside Senior Tyler Rolland faced the unenviable task of playing Murprheesboro's Juraj Ugor in the first round and lost 6-0, 6-0. Ugor went on to claim the state singles title.
"It's pretty exciting," Riverside coach Terry Conner said. "We had some surprises. Anna was determined not to lose to Young again today after dropping her first three matches to her this season. Anna really played great today. I am very proud of her. It was also nice to have an all Riverside doubles final. All the players played well today. I am proud of all of them. Winning a state title is hard to do. You just try to win as many times as you can. It never gets old."
Riverside will send five players to the Overall State Championships which begin Wednesday in Little Rock. Brickell will play Episcopal Collegiate's Stelle Strauss in her first round match. Boness and Campbell will take on the Highland duo of Eldridge and Holzhauer while Snyder and Weaver will face Nashville's team of McJunkens and Purcell.