Stone tennis advances in postseason

Apr. 29—As defending district champions, the Stone Memorial Lady Panthers were feeling the pressure as they opened the postseason last week in the District Team Tennis Tournament.

They went into the playoffs with a target on their backs and every other team in the playoffs is looking to be the one to send them packing.

But that wouldn't be the case in the opening round Friday when Stone Memorial took down Warren County, 6-0.

"Going into the match with Warren County, I knew it was going to be difficult," said Stone coach Dylan Nelson. "I think the score was 7-2 when we played during the season. Our losses were at the bottom of the lineup, so I was pretty confident going into the match.

"Some of the matches that were like 8-3 or 8-4 last time last time we played were a little more one-sided this time. And that is nice to see because that means we're improving."

The tennis postseason switches the match format from six singles and three doubles to four singles and two doubles contests.

Stone Memorial swept the doubles competition. Rachel and Carrie Houston beat Warren County's Izzy Pitts and Susanna Netherton, 8-0.

Sydney Rally and Courtney Calhoun made it 2-0 for Stone when they took down Rachel Jackson and Ranna Jakenbough, 8-2.

"We did doubles first and we won pretty convincingly," Nelson said. "Sydney and Courtney won, and that's nice because they have been struggling a little bit. They're doing very well.

"Being 2-0 after the doubles gives us a lot of confidence. Anytime you can get two points out of the block, going into the singles just needing to win two matches out of four is a big advantage."

SMHS picked up four wins in the singles competition. Rachel Houston led the way with a 6-0, 6-1 decision over Abby Graves at the No. 1 position. Carrie Houston, playing No. 2 for Stone, beat London Carter 6-0, 6-2.

Calhoun won her singles match at No. 4 with a 6-4, 6-2 win over Netherton, and Ellie Turner, playing No. 5 for the Lady Panthers, beat Rachel Jackson 6-1, 6-0 to secure the win.

"Rachel and Carrie are always solid at the top of our lineup," Nelson said. "The real bright side was Ellie Turner at No. 5. She had a pretty convincing win over a girl she had lost to earlier in the season."

Stone Memorial must now get ready to battle at Cookeville in the district finals at 2 p.m.

"We played Cookeville one time this year and lost 2-7," Nelson said. "If things shake out like they did last time, we're going to need two more wins, probably somewhere near the end of the lineup.

"I think with our top four players having been to the postseason, the district and the region before, that could be a huge advantage for us. The girls are fit, and the more we can extend the match with Cookeville, the better off we are."

The individual district tournament will be May 2-3 at Cookeville High School.