The Manchester Academy tennis team won the MAIS AA boys’ and girls’ state championships on Wednesday at the Ridgeland Tennis Center. The Maverick girls’ team dominated the tournament winning all four of the girls’ singles and doubles championships, while the MA boys won in dramatic fashion by winning the last three boys’ matches decided.
Since 2011, the Mav girls have won 5 of the last 9 state championships, while the MA boys have won 4 of the last 6 state titles.
While the MA girls had secured the state team championship before a mid-afternoon rain delay, the MA boys were in trouble. Newton County Academy had 5 points to MA’s 3 and the Mavericks needed to win all three of the remaining boys’ matches to win the team title. MA’s two boys’ doubles team had just won their first sets and looked promising when the rain delay started, but MA’s Upton Hitt had fallen behind 6-1, 3-0 in the #1 boys’ singles final and was struggling.
“We got a little rain delay and I had time to get my mind right,” explained Upton Hitt. “I knew I had to start getting my shots in and the rain delay definitely worked in my favor. I started hitting all my put away shots in and my serve was going in. It was all going my way, and I was able to close out the match.”
Hitt won the singles state championship 1-6, 6-4, 6-3 in a remarkable comeback victory. Just before Hitt resurrected his game, Matt Carroll and Will Peeler easily defeated Newton County Academy 6-3, 6-1 in #1 boys’ doubles to claim their second state championship in the last two years. They were a dominant force for the Mavs all year and had no trouble at State.
At this point, Manchester and Newton were tied and the #2 boys’ doubles match would decide the team championship. MA’s Hayes Bardwell and Zach Haynes had the team’s fortune in their hands as they faced yet another Newton doubles team. A large crowd of MA fans and tennis players gathered around the court to cheer on Bardwell and Haynes. The MA boys never seem affected by the pressure and secured the state team championship by winning their final match 6-3, 6-3 against Newton, their second state #2 doubles title in as many years.
“We really played clutch tennis today when it mattered the most,” commented MA Coach Debbie Crisler. “We brought a lot of hardware back to the Manchester trophy case, but it took some exceptional play and determination. We lost four first sets today and had our backs against the wall, but we came back and won each of those matches.”
The Maverick #1 doubles duo of Mary Sibley McGraw and Ann Hampton Wells cruised through their first match of the day 6-0, 6-2, but they appeared flat and nervous in the finals. They quickly lost the first set 6-1 to their opponents from Newton and MA coaches Debbie Crisler and Yvette Edwards met with them before the second set. Whatever they told them must have been brilliant, because the MA girls jumped out to a 4-1 lead with McGraw aggressively attacking at the net and Wells hitting fantastic ground strokes. MA won the second set 6-2 and jumped out to a 5-3 lead in the third set, but couldn’t close the match and ended up in a tie-breaker. Up 7-6 points, the Mavs had match point when a huge bolt of lightning caused the tournament officials to call a rain delay.
“You can only imagine the pressure on these girls knowing a state championship was within one point, but they had to wait about two hours to get back on the court,” said Crisler.
After the rain delay, the Newton team managed to win the first point and tie the match at 7 points, but McGraw anticipated a Newton cross-court shot and flushed it at the net to give the Mavs another championship point. This time it was Wells who hit the volley winner at the net to close out the match and secure the #1 girls doubles state title for McGraw and Wells.
Monica Morrison had earlier given the MA girls their first state title of the day in an impressive 6-1, 6-0 victory in the #1 girls’ singles final against Brookhaven. However, Morrison had to play some of her most determined and smart tennis of the season to even make the final. Morrison lost her first set against Franklin Academy 4-6, but stormed back 6-4, 6-2 to secure her spot in the championship match.
“I’m really proud of Monica; she hit some amazing shots at critical points to win both her matches,” stated Coach Crisler.
MA sophomore Sophie Humphreys caught the eye of college coaches with her impressive play at the state tournament. Humphreys cruised to the #2 girls’ singles state championship 6-2, 6-4 over Newton displaying her tenacious playing style.
MA seniors Marie Lewis and Merrell Nichols secured the team victory and won the #2 girls’ doubles state championship 6-4, 7-5 against Newton, but not before being in a lot of trouble in their first round match against Brookhaven. The MA girls had few answers for their opponents in the early going and quickly lost the first set, but Nichols and Lewis shifted gears and won 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
“We worked really hard all year to get here, especially since it’s our senior year and we wanted to win state and we did,” commented Marie Lewis.
“It feels amazing, terrific and wonderful,” added Nichols.
Manchester’s Staten Greenlee competed in the boys’ #2 singles, but lost a tough match 7-5, 6-2 to eventual champion Newton.
MA led the girls scoring with 8 points, while runner-up Newton County Academy scored 3, Brookhaven 1, Oak Hill 1 and Winona ½. The MA boys scored 6 points, Newtown County Academy 5, Brookhaven 1, Oak Hill 1, St. Joe 1 and Winona ½.