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Tigers roar to sixth straight Madison County girls tennis championship

Apr. 13—ANDERSON — A dreadful weather week did little more than delay the inevitable in terms of girls tennis as Alexandria swept to its sixth consecutive Madison County championship with three wins in two days.

The Tigers have won seven of the last eight championships and nine total titles since the tournament began in 2008. This week they did so without dropping a point or even losing a single set.

After opening with a Friday night win over Pendleton Heights, the Tigers rolled past Anderson — which hosted the semifinals and finals after weather postponements — in the semifinal round before defeating Frankton in the championship match.

But all this success is far from easy, no matter how simple the players make it look at times.

"It's pretty special with three new faces," Alex coach Matt DeVault said. "It's a built-in tradition that new faces step up every year, but it was the veterans who got our first three points."

Those veterans are senior Allie Clark at the No. 1 singles slot and junior Avery Cuneo at No. 2 singles. Clark swept past Emily Bilyeu 6-0, 6-0, and Cuneo was nearly as efficient, posting a 6-1, 6-0 win over Lainey Hamaker.

"It shows how Avery has stepped up her game," DeVault said. "She has played really well these three matches."

Clark is the first individual to win four Madison County championships and has done so from the No. 1 singles position the last three seasons.

"You almost get spoiled," DeVault said of Clark. "To win four in a row in different roles, that is not easy. And she played very, very well today. Frankton came to play, and we had to step up our own game."

"It's incredible," Clark said. "It just shows how the work in the offseason and in practice has paid off. Setting the tone relieves the younger players. It helps boost the confidence of the team."

Alexandria got the clinching third point when juniors Abby Gaines and Lily Harpe completed a 6-3, 6-4 win over Sloane Harrison and Campbell Quire in the No. 1 doubles match.

Both Gaines and Harpe played doubles last year as well but not as a pair.

Two of DeVault's varsity newcomers are sophomores Addie Bates and Delilah Young, who took a 6-3, 7-5 decision at No. 2 doubles over Frankton's Karlee Cole and Laela Deitzer.

The clean sweep surprised even DeVault.

"We all had one match under our belts, which is nice, but this time of year we don't know who we are," he said. "They were all 2-0 (matches), which I did not expect. I thought our girls responded well and did not lose a set."

The No. 3 singles match became an extended affair — lasting well over three hours — before newcomer Fayte Bridwell held off Lily Hall 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 to complete the 5-0 Tigers' win.

"The early season challenges are, can you win county? We did that," DeVault said. "The girls are excited. Hopefully that builds confidence as we start our conference schedule."

Clark attributes the success of the program — which shows no signs of slowing down — to the atmosphere and the work ethic, a combination of coaching and players willing to give effort while having fun.

"It's the fun we have and the work we put in," she said. "It's the most pride I've ever had, being captain of this team. I've enjoyed every single minute that I've played."

Frankton advanced to the final with a 3-0 rain-shortened win over Elwood on Friday night and a 4-1 semifinal victory over Lapel on Saturday.

Contact Rob Hunt at rob.hunt@heraldbulletin.com or 765-640-4886.