Riverside tennis reigns supreme
REBEL BOYS BRING HOME 2A STATE CHAMPIONSHIP
By TRENT FLETCHER
Town Crier Sports Staff
Riverside continued its domination in the Class 2A state tennis ranks, winning the boys team title Tuesday afternoon at Allen Park in Jonesboro. For the Rebel tennis program, it marks an incredible 21 state titles under head coach Terry Conner, but the first for the boys in team competition.
"We've been close a few times, finishing runner-up on four occasions, so this one is very special for us," Conner said. "The funny thing is in all of our four runner-up finishes, we either won a singles or doubles championship, but this year, we claimed neither, yet we brought home the team title. It was a total team effort and every point counted. Everyone came through for us."
The Rebels were led by Levi Reed and Gavin Stone, who finished runner-up in doubles play to the Westside-Greers Ferry duo of Ben Hargrove and Dylan Jones, who defeated the Riverside pair 6-1, 6-0, in the finals. It was the second straight doubles title for Hargrove and Jones. Riverside also got valuable points from the doubles pair of Kollin Stone and Cody Webb, who finished third.
Both Riverside doubles teams advanced to the semifinals with straight set victories in the opening two rounds.
Grant Mason advanced to the semifinals in singles play and finished fourth, while Devon Austin advanced to the quarterfinals. Mason reached the semifinals, defeating Marked Tree's Hunter Pitts, 6-1, 6-4, and Parkers Chapel's Kade Cushing, 3-6, 6-4, 7-5. Austin won a first round match, 6-3, 6-1, over Gurdon's Brandon Bills, before losing to Mulberry's Luke Anderson, who went on to claim the singles crown.
"Everyone played extremely well," Conner said. "It was a pleasant surprise. We are still a very young team with no seniors. I am very excited and happy for the kids. We are looking forward to the future, having everyone back."
The Lady Rebels saw their bid for a fourth straight team title end at the hands of Parkers Chapel. Three time defending state singles champion Anna Brickell was upset in the quarterfinals, losing to Haas Hall Academy's Emma Coor, 1-6, 6-3, 6-3.
"Anna is such a great player and a great kid," Conner said. "We already had a very good girls program when she arrived, but Anna helped put us over the hump in singles play. We were able to take our program to the next level with her help."
Brickell ends her Rebel career as one of the most decorated players in state history.
The Lady Rebels still had a chance to win its fourth straight team title and fifth in six years, when two-time defending state doubles champion Kenzley Wilson and new partner Chelsea Nichols took on the Parkers Chapel duo of Lauren Brumley and Summer Stackhouse. The match was close throughout but Brumley and Stackhouse outlasted the Riverside pair, 6-4, 6-4. Wilson and Nichols had breezed to the finals with straight set wins in their first three matches.
"We are really going to miss Kenzley," Conner said. "Her play in doubles has been a vital part of our success the last four years."
Brumley and Stackhouse also knocked off the Riverside duo of Sydney Emery and Natalie Milligan in the semifinals. Emery and Milligan advanced to the semifinals with a 6-1, 6-1 straight set victory over Greers Ferry-Westside's team of Gentry and Tourney.
Riverside's other singles entrant, Kaitlyn Hale, defeated Alexis Green of Brinkley, 6-0, 6-2, before losing to eventual state champion Emma Warnock of Conway Christian in the second round.
"The girls were disappointed at not repeating, but I told them they had nothing to be disappointed about," Conner said. "They played well and have accomplished so much the last four years. It's tough to win a state championship, especially this many times in a row. I am very proud of them."