By GENE PHELPS
TUPELO – Drew Toppin and Chris White helped lead Tupelo to a second consecutive state 5A tennis championship last season.
Friday afternoon at Rob Leake City Park courts, the seniors did their part to ensure the Golden Wave remained in the mix to defend its title as Tupelo defeated Northwest Rankin 5-2 in the MHSAA’s opening round of team competition.
Toppin and White won their No. 2 boys doubles match, defeating the Cougars’ Wil Ballew and Bryce Spong 6-0, 6-4.
“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Toppin said. “We also know each other’s emotions.”
Knowing your partner certainly helps when you trail in a match, as Toppin and White did against Northwest Rankin. They fell behind 3-2 in the second set before rallying for the win.
“We started slumping the second set,” Toppin said. “We relaxed a little too much. We got overconfident.”
Tupelo (10-3) returns to action next week in a second-round match against the DeSoto Central-Warren Central winner. A date and time has not been set.
The Golden Wave won both its singles matches as Catherine Holliday downed Taylor Burley 6-0, 6-1 and Jonathan Doles beat Chritisian Branning 6-4, 7-5.
Tupelo’s No. 1 doubles team of Jeff Hamm and Aaron Hildenbrand needed a third-set tiebreaker to defeat Daniel McClung and Carter Black 6-1, 2-6, (10-1).
The Wave’s No. 2 doubles team of Leslie Hamm and Bess Ruff beat Carley Adams and Jeannie Smith 6-2, 3-6 (10-7).
In No. 1 girls doubles, Mandy Collins and Tate Davis dropped a 6-2, 7-5 decision to Madison King and Gabi Kovac while the Wave’s mixed doubles team of Kat Stratton and Zac Baldwin fell to Brittany DeCamp and Chase Black 6-4, 2-6 (4-10).
“I was proud of the kids,” Tupelo coach Sherry Rial said. “We could have given up in several matches, but we didn’t. The two courts that lost battled to the end.
“I couldn’t ask for more than that.”