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JCHS tennis team shows significant improvement in Unicoi match

The more matches they get under their belts, the better the JCHS tennis team has been doing, a fact that was readily apparent as the Longhorns took on the Unicoi County Blue Devils at home Thursday. The day actually started off badly with most of the singles matches falling decidedly in Unicoi’s favor. However, as the evening wore on and the Longhorns began pairing up for doubles, the outcomes became much less predictable.
“We lost overall but I’m pretty pleased with the progress,” said Coach Steve Nave. “Unicoi is always either the best or the second best team so we know it’s going to be tough with them. There’s usually a lot of intimidation and I didn’t see any of that today. We just played, and that’s the first time in a couple years that’s happened, so I was pretty happy with it.  Tori Isreal and Krista Warren lost their doubles match 8-5, but they were playing really well and Mitchell Stockinger and Andy Rosado played really well. We actually looked the best we have today.”
As Nave indicted, the majority of the doubles matches were very close, usually within a couple of games of taking the set. Yet the closest and possibly most exciting match of the whole evening came when juniors Amber Brown and Dawn Lewis led the way to a very narrow 9-7 victory that came down to a single serve. At 8-7, Lewis and Brown maintained a tenuous control of the set all the way from the first game, but came dangerously close to a tiebreaker as Unicoi worked the point count to 40 all. Johnson County came out on top, breaking the deuce and ultimately taking the final game to win the set.
When asked about playing such a high-pressure match up against a strong opponent, Brown admitted it had a lot to do with focus. “I was thinking we have to stick together, we have to stay strong and work together and not give up and play with everything we have,” Brown said. “Doubles went great. This is a very big win, beating Unicoi. I was shocked. Working hard and playing against a great team like that, it was well deserved.  I guess it’s what you get. I’m very happy, very happy to win.”
Coach Nave seemed equally pleased with the victory. “They didn’t get down after the singles and came back and played strong on doubles,” said Nave.  “It was a pretty good day. Dawn and Amber have played together now for three years and that’s something I’ve said for the last three years. They are going to get better and they are going to start winning. This was a big step toward that. This is part of the process. It’s exactly what I was expecting to happen and I’m pretty pleased with their progress.”
Having lost her singles match by just two games, Brown was already holding her own, and attributed her continued work between matches as a major factor in the later win. “Coming to practice and showing up and working everyday as hard as we do, working with the coaches, it all helped us,” Brown said. “I have to work on my serves, but mine and Dawn’s communication is going pretty great right now. Getting back into things after not being able to play all winter is hard, but coming up here extra just on my own time has helped.”
The extra practice and hard work is paying off not only for some of the more veteran players on the team but also the incoming freshmen who have a lot to learn about the sport. Hopefully by the end of the season the Longhorns will have improved enough to not only compete but also become a serious contender in the conference tournament. If this early Unicoi match is any indicator, that process is already well underway.