Last season, North Murray High School tennis coach Amanda Bynum was able to tell her juniors a version of “there’s always next year” when the boys team lost in the state tournament.
This year, she didn’t have quite the same end-of-season pick-me-up speech available for her six seniors.
The Mountaineers lost 3-1 to North Oconee in the first round of the Class 3A state tournament Mon-day at the Murray County Recreat-ion Department tennis courts.
North Murray (15-4) qualified for state as Region 5’s No. 2 seed, while the Titans (10-16) are Region 8’s No. 3 seed. North Murray’s lone victory came on the No. 3 singles court as Dylan Davis beat Kyle Hutto 6-2, 6-1. However, the Mountaineers were already trapped in a 2-0 hole on the team match scoreboard when the senior clinched his win.
North Oconee’s No. 1 Peter Bertran won 6-2, 6-0 against Drew Mosteller, while No. 2 Aashal Dave won 6-1, 6-1 against Hunter Kvistad.
Davis said there was more pressure knowing his team was one loss from the season ending.
“You don’t want to be the last one,” he said. “That’s what happened to me at the region championship. ... I just imagined it being my last match and gave everything I had.”
After Davis’ win, it came down to the two doubles matches.
“They were fighting to see who is the next off,” North Oconee coach Candy Crenshaw said. “I told them not to focus on that and just focus on the ball and their court.”
North Oconee’s No. 2 doubles team of Mitch Smith and Kendric Hughes won 6-3, 6-3 versus Wesley Ross and Mark Lents to end the day. North Murray’s No. 1 doubles team of Alex Ellis and Jacob Ledford won their first set, 6-4, but lost the second 6-1 and were trailing 2-0 when the match ended because the Titans had an insurmountable overall lead.
“In the first set, we played hard,” Ledford said. “In the second set, I think fatigue got to me a little.”
Ellis, Ledford, Lents, Mosteller and Ross were the other North Murray seniors, all six of whom played on last year’s team. The Mountaineers, who earned their third straight trip to the state tournament this season, lost 3-0 in the first round of the Class 2A tournament last season to the same North Oconee squad. In that match, North Murray was the No. 4 seed going against the Region 8 champs.
“It’s a tough loss, more so because six of the seven are seniors,” Bynum said. “There’s not a next year. It’s a hard loss, because there’s not a next year. When you can’t say, ‘We’ll get them next year,’ it’s tougher.”
North Murray is still a relatively new school — it began classes in 2009 — and the tennis program is still growing. Most home matches are played at the recreation department’s tennis courts, Ross said, because those on campus don’t have enough courts or lights. But Ross believes the team can hold its head high with the foundation planted for future North Murray tennis squads.
“We hope we left a legacy,” Ross said. “Hopefully, with us going to state, we can get people to get some more courts and future generations can play at North Murray instead of having to come to the recreation department courts.”
• Wesleyan girls 5, Murray County 0: The Lady Indians (11-7) saw their season end in the first round of the Class 2A state playoffs.
For seniors Trinity Rittenhouse and Erica Steelman, this was the last match of their high school careers.
Rittenhouse was the No. 3 singles player for the Lady Indians this season, while Steelman pairs with Chloe Brown at No. 1 doubles.
Lady Indians coach Becky Quast said most of the match scores were lopsided but didn’t “indicate the caliber of the match.”
She said there were a lot of tight games, with most going Wesleyan’s way.
“The Murray County girls, they are scrappers,” she said. “They played to the very end.”
Murray County was the Region 7 No. 3 seed, while Wesleyan is Region 6’s No. 2 seed.
Five of the Lady Indians’ seven starters will return next season — including No. 1 singles player Gabbie Bordelon, a sophomore, and junior No. 2 singles player Allison Jones.
“That’s going to be good,” Quast said. “I’m looking forward to next year. We’ll have some people from (junior varsity) who will come up and be able to play for us next year.”