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Tennis team plays classic

By Matt Hill

JCHS once again fell to Elizabethton in boys tennis last Tuesday, but there were no losers.
In one of the most compelling tennis matches ever played at Johnson County High School, the Longhorns couldn’t overcome losing two matches in tiebreaks and the Cyclones won a 5-4 classic.
To put in perspective, the Longhorns have not defeated Elizabethton in well over a decade and have been blown away most times.
This match though was between two very evenly matched teams and that’s how things turned out.
The shot making from one-through-six singles was incredible on both sides and four matches, three singles and one doubles, went right to the end.
“It was definitely the best match I have ever been a part of,” JCHS tennis coach Steve Nave said. “I wouldn’t be any prouder had we won. I would be happier, but I wouldn’t be any prouder. Timmy (Bellamy), Ryan, (Whitener), Jackson (Johnson) and everyone did all they could do. It just didn’t go our way.”
The Longhorns won the first three singles matches of the day.
In the No. 1 singles, Wade Tugman had a harder than expected time disposing of Elijah Shingleton, but got the job done in an 8-4 victory.
No. 2 player Carlton Tugman turned in the most dominant performance of the afternoon for the Longhorns.
Tugman led Andy Bowers 5-0 in the first set and never looked back in an 8-3 win over Andy Bowers.
Tugman dominated with his serve and couldn’t let Bowers get into a flow.
At No. 3, it was a big win for Jackson Johnson, who pulled out an 8-6 triumph over Michael Hutchins.
Johnson broke Hutchins to serve for the match at 7-6 and then hit a winner on match point.
The Longhorns needed one of the bottom seeds to win to make it very difficult on Elizabethton.
Steven Joiner lost 8-3 to Ward Tanner and it was up to two freshmen who gave valiant efforts.
At No. 5 in probably the most entertaining match of the day, Timmy Bellamy had some amazing rallies with Elizabethton’s Matt Fair.
Bellamy came up with some brilliant shot making, but started making some key errors late and went on to lose 8-6.
At No. 6 singles, Ryan Whitener’s forehand was giving Ryan Pinkerman all sorts of problems and the two went all the way into a tiebreak.
Pinkerman was too much for Whitener in the tiebreak and Whitener lost 9-8.
Had just a few more points gone the Longhorns way, JCHS would have celebrated a milestone victory.
“Ryan has improved so much and Timmy played great,” Nave said. “You never want to depend on freshmen for wins, because they usually don’t get them. But both of them had great chances and I’m very proud of them.”
The Longhorns needed two out of the doubles wins and they won at No. 2 with Carlton Tugman and Steven Joiner winning 8-4 over Shingleton and Fair.
JCHS lost at No. 3 as Ryan Whitener and Andy Stout fell 8-3 to Pinkerman and Josh Peters.
No. 1 doubles decided the contest and this one went all the way to a tiebreaker as well.
The Longhorns were two points) to victory, but the Cyclones were able to take advantage of a double fault and a missed volley and Elizabethton had won an unforgettable match.
“We didn’t get a break in either tiebreak and you have to give Elizabethton credit and what can you say,” Nave said. “You have to give Elizabethton credit for winning those tiebreakers. Take away two or three points and we could have won it 7-2. It was fun to watch.”
Nave was real pleased with the effort.
“I don’t think we lost the match, I think they won it,” he said. They hit great shots as well. How many times can you say that was a great tennis match to watch, but really it was? It was fun. I’m extremely proud of the effort.”
Though the crowd was basically made up of moms and dads, Nave says everyone would have enjoyed watching the excitement of this classic match.
“I couldn’t imagine anybody watching this not enjoying it because every match was so close,” Nave said. “That’s a lot of pressure for every single point. It’s the best one I’ve been a part of in several years.”
There was a lot of heartbreak among the JCHS players after the match, especially the seniors.
Rest assured, they will look back one day knowing they played and did well in one of the greatest high school tennis matches ever played on the hill.
For complete details please pick up a copy of this weeks, The Tomahawk, available at local newsstands today!