PREP TENNIS: Teams battle cold and competition at tennis center

March 6, 2019

The right combination of warmth and mobility had to be taken into account Tuesday by high school tennis players spread out across the courts at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.

Teams were faced with temperatures in the mid- to low 40s and a bitter wind as they attempted to compose themselves against region opponents as the sun continued to set.

“We’re kind of used to it,” Rockmart boys’ coach Barry Owen said. “This is what you get when you play in the spring. One day it can be 35 degrees, and the next day it can be 65 degrees. It’s just what you have to go through in practice and playing matches.”

The Yellow Jackets came away with a 4-1 win over Model in a rematch of Region 7-AA’s most recent heated rivalry, with the Blue Devils topping Rockmart the last two seasons to win the region title.

“We’ve had a lot of tough matches with them, including last year when we went 0-for-3 against them, so I was glad to get this first win (over them) today,” Owen said.

Rockmart’s girls swept the Lady Blue Devils, 5-0, while Pepperell and Coosa fought to 3-2 final tallies, with the Coosa girls and Pepperell boys coming out on top.

Rome High’s boys’ team was also in action at the facility Tuesday afternoon, hosting Hiram and coming away with an overall 5-0 victory.

Rockmart’s teams are each undefeated on the season, with the boys taking advantage of having back their entire first line of varsity players.

The Jackets’ Timothy Malone won his No. 2 singles match 6-1, 6-1, followed by Bennett Vest’s 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3 singles. Hunter England and Elijah Malone took the No. 1 doubles line 6-0, 6-4, while Gavin Tan and Dillon Mahan won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 2 doubles.

Model’s lone win came at No. 1 singles where junior Parker Stone won 6-0, 6-0, remaining undefeated in his high school career.

Owen said having solid wins at nearly every line was a positive step toward their season’s goals.

“It’s very encouraging to see that,” he said. “We have five seniors whom I have been their coach since they were in seventh grade. They’ve grown up together and worked hard to get to where they are right now. And they’re seeing the fruits of their labor.”

Rockmart’s girls, who have won back-to-back region titles, have some new players on varsity this season but are continuing to be formidable.

The Lady Jackets are led by No. 1 singles player Mary Ella Owen, who won 6-2, 6-0 on Tuesday, and Emma Evans, who took her No. 2 singles match 6-0, 6-0.

Maryann Earwood won 6-3, 6-1 at No. 3 singles for Rockmart, while the Lady Jackets’ No. 1 doubles team of Haley Fairel and Megan Clanton won 7-6 (7-1), 6-3. Maddie Ann Harp and Eisley Pope then completed the sweep with a 6-0, 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles.

Moving up to Class 5A, the Rome Wolves were challenged by Hiram in the late going but maintained a sweep in the 7-5A match.

Carson Garrett came out ahead 6-1, 7-6 (10-8) at No. 1 singles, while Caleb McCurry finished with a 6-3, 7-6 (7-2) victory at No. 2 singles. Doubles matches went to Jarred Jones and Nelson Chen (6-2, 7-5), and Ian Kligora and Jackson Wood (6-2, 6-0).

Hiram forfeited the No. 3 singles line.

The two tightest contests Tuesday came against Region 7-AA and Floyd County rivals Pepperell and Coosa, with each coming away with a win by one match.

In the girls’ matches, Coosa got a boost from its No. 2 and No. 3 singles, with Neema Patel winning 6-4, 6-2, and Gracie Shumate pulling out a 6-1, 7-6 (10-5) victory in a tiebreaker. Brinley Smith and Katrice Ferrell then gave the Lady Eagles the win with a 6-0, 6-4 final at No. 1 doubles.

Pepperell’s Carrington Nails put the Lady Dragons on the board with a 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 1 singles, while her teammates Hannah Nash and Ashley Cordle won 7-5, 6-4 at No. 2 doubles.

It’s was Pepperell’s boys coming out ahead over Coosa as Ben Whelchel won his No. 1 singles match 6-1, 6-0, and Koby Legg hanging on at No. 2 singles, 4-6, 7-5, 11-9. The Dragons sealed the win thanks to the No. 2 doubles team of Blake Galenzoski and Lewis Shell, who won 1-6, 6-7 (7-4).

Coosa’s Jordan Broome won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3 singles, while the Eagles’ No. 1 doubles team of Bradley Johnson and Brady Jacobs won 6-1, 6-2.