By Gene Phelps

Daily Journal

Tupelo cruised to victory in its Division 2-5A tennis match Thursday against Starkville, but Golden Wave coach Amy Long knows her team is not quite ready to defend its state championship.

“We need a lot of work before the state tournament,” said Long, after watching her team defeat the Yellowjackets 5-0 at Tupelo’s Rob Leake City Park courts. “I told them we’re not a state championship team right now.

“We’ve got almost three weeks to get there.”

Tupelo is gunning for its third consecutive state championship and its second under Long. The Golden Wave won last year’s crown under the direction of former coach Harriet Ellett.

Thursday’s win upped Tupelo’s record to 8-2 overall and to 4-0 in division play. The victory clinched top seedings in the April 26 division tournament for the Wave’s boys singles, girls singles, girls doubles and mixed doubles. The 5A state tournament is May 3-4 in Jackson.

“Grenada beat us in boys doubles, so a lot (the seeding) depends on how we do next Thursday,” Long said of the Wave’s final regular-season match at Grenada.

Jack Wilson, a junior, remained unbeaten this season, defeating Starkville’s Todd Rowan 6-0, 6-2.

“Jack’s playing well,” Long said. “He has a shot at winning state (singles).”

Wilson, one of the state’s top-rated players, and Sarah Biegert won the mixed doubles state title last season.

“I’ve played pretty well this year,” said Wilson, who is 10-0. “Coming into the season, I felt like there were three guys close to me. I’ve beaten one of them (Meridian’s Gordon Mason) and he beat the other (Gulfport’s Fant Walker), and one quit playing.”

Wilson has lost only four games in eight division sets this season.

In girls singles, sophomore Ginger Brake defeated Starkville’s Elizabeth Davis 6-4, 6-0.

In boys doubles, senior Will Stewart and junior Jeff Caldwell downed Seth O’Nan and Daniel Wilburn 6-1, 6-4.

In mixed doubles, junior Brannon Kahlstorf and sophomore Kirk Reed defeated Nathan Moore and Kristen Ellis 6-0, 5-7, 6-1.

In girls doubles, seniors Sadie Gardner and Erin Montgomery beat Liz Blake and Armara de la Cruz 6-3, 6-4. Gardner and Montgomery, who have both won state doubles titles with different partners, are 7-0 this season.

“They (Gardner and Montgomery) are struggling a little because they have a tendency to play down to their competition,” Long said. “They need to play their game.”

Long said she hasn’t been surprised by her team’s play.

“We’ve played about like I thought we would,” she said. “I think we can definitely compete for the state championship.”

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