By Gene Phelps/NEMS Daily Journal
TUPELO – Tupelo’s run for a fifth consecutive state championship in tennis ended abruptly Friday afternoon for two reasons: threatening weather and a formidable foe.
Madison Central was ahead of the Golden Wave 4-1 when match officials halted play because of lightning and thunderstorms closing in on the city park courts.
The visiting Jaguars clinched the MHSAA first-round 6A dual match moments before the suspension of play when Yasmin Hegazy and Keegan Barkley beat Tupelo’s Kat Stratton and Aaron Hildenbrand 10-5 in a tiebreaker. The mixed doubles opponents had split sets with the Wave winning 7-5 and losing 6-0.
Tupelo saw its team season end, but five of its players – Zac Baldwin (boys singles), Jonathan Doles-Hildenbrand (boys No. 1 doubles) and Martha Kate Buskirk-Leslie Hamm (girls No. 1 doubles) – will compete for individual 6A state titles next month in Jackson.
Madison Central, which defeated the Golden Wave 7-0 earlier this season, advanced to the state quarterfinals with its win.
“I’m not disappointed in our kids,” Tupelo coach Sherry Rial said. “I’m disappointed because we’ve had such a run at state.”
Buskirk, a senior, and Hamm, a junior, gave Tupelo its lone match win, when they defeated Madison Central’s Delaney Taylor and Emily Kelly 6-3, 6-1 in No. 1 doubles.
The win was the sixth straight for the doubles unit.
“Coach Rial started out the year mixing and matching players,” Hamm said. “I’m glad she found us. We work well together.”
Added Buskirk, “We communicate well. We need to work on positioning and getting to every ball.”
Tupelo’s No. 2 girls doubles team of Sarah Lambert Hollingsworth and Lauren Bell lost 6-1 and 6-3 to McKenzie Brown and Danielle Rumbley.
In singles play, Tupelo’s Brooks Jackson lost 6-1, 6-1 to Ken Yamada while the Wave’s Ashley Williams fell 6-0, 6-0 to Mary Carroll.
The doubles teams of Doles and Stephen Stone and Baldwin and Sam Hand did not complete their matches.
“I would have liked to have seen us finish our courts. Our boys were battling back,” Rial said.