DHS tennis earns state berth
The Demopolis boys tennis team is in the state tournament after a strong showing in the sectional round at Walker Thursday.
“We knew going in we had to beat Chilton County,” DHS tennis coach Kyle Williams said. “Walker High School ended up winning and they are just a different breed. We played them in all three doubles championships and they beat us.”
The losses to Walker in doubles and singles play accounted for most of the Tigers’ blemishes on the day. The team needed to finish in the top two to make sectionals with placement being decided on a points system.
Teams were awarded two points for wins in singles matches and three for doubles wins. Players coming off a bye and then getting a win were given double points to account for the idle round.
Teams seeded their doubles tandems one through three. Those listed as the No. 1 team for their school were put into a tournament against other top seeds with the second seeds facing one another and so forth. The same format was applied to singles play.
In doubles action, Walker McNeil and Neilsen Renner played as the No. 1 seed for Demopolis and ranked No. 3 overall in the bracket. McNeil and Renner defeated Central Tuscaloosa 10-5 and Chilton County 10-3 before losing to Walker in the finals.
Logan Boone and Drew Mercer played in the No. 2 seed and ranked second overall in the bracket. That tandem drew a first round bye before defeating Chilton 10-6 and ultimately losing to Walker in the finals.
Avery Duckworth and Neville Reid held down the No. 3 seed, ranking second overall in the draw. The duo pulled a first round bye and then dashed Chilton 10-3 before falling to Walker in the finals. By the end of doubles play, the Tigers had accumulated 18 points. By comparison, Chilton County finished third in sectionals and scored only 20 points in the entire tournament.
“The doubles really helped,” Williams said. “That was huge.”
In singles play, McNeil was DHS’ top seed. Playing out of the No. 3 spot in the bracket, McNeil defeated Pleasant Grove 10-0 before losing to Chilton 10-3.
Renner held his own in the No. 2 Tiger seed, drawing a bye in the first round and then defeating CCHS 10-8 before falling to Walker.
Boone played in the three seed for DHS, defeating Pleasant Grove 10-3 and then losing to CCHS 10-3.
Duckworth moved up into the No. 4 slot for the Tigers, defeating Pleasant Grove 10-5 and Chilton County 10-8 prior to losing to Walker in the finals.
“It was very big,” Williams said of Duckworth’s willingness to play up a slot. “He did waht we asked him to do and it paid off in the long run.”
Neville Reid, the team’s No. 5 seed, defeated Central-Tuscaloosa by default after the Falcons did not have enough players to fill out all six spots. Reid then found himself down 8-2 against Chilton in the second round. He battled back to know the match at 10 and force a tiebreak that he ultimately drooped 7-5.
“It shows what kind of character he’s got after being down and coming back,” Williams said. “If he can battle like that, he can play with whoever he wants to play with.”
Mercer came out of the Tigers’ No. 6 spot, drawing and first round bye and then holding off Chilton in a tiebreak to win 11-10. By day’s end, the Tigers totaled 36 points and had clinched a berth in the state draw in Mobile.
“When they found out, it was just great to see their expressions,” Williams said of the team. “They knew they had worked hard and the hard work had paid off.”
The achievement would have been great for any team, but it likely came a little earlier than expected as the Tigers have only one senior on the squad.
“I think it is a huge accomplishment,” Williams said. “I think that sets the standard for what we can do next year too.”
The DHS boys will play in the state tournament at the Mobile Tennis Center in Mobile Monday and Tuesday.
The boys run came just two days after their female counterparts narrowly missed joining them at state. The DHS ladies played sectionals in Walker on Friday and missed qualifying for state by one point.
“It was (a heartbreaker),” Williams said. “We didn’t know how close it was until the end. It ended up coming down to us and Pleasant Grove. But I’m really proud of our girls and what they accomplished.”
Similar to the boys side, the girls are a young team, boasting only two seniors in the group.
“We only have two seniors on our girls,” Williams said. “So we may be looking up in girls too.”