Chattanooga Christian derails 'Betsy girls

By Matt Hill

STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   CHATTANOOGA -- Losing in the state tournament may be as hard to take as it is for a little kid who has his or her candy stolen, but you couldn't rob Elizabethton High tennis coach Danny O'Quinn of his joy on Tuesday.
   "I'm very proud of the girls," O'Quinn said following his team's 4-0 loss to Chattanooga Christian in the first round of the Class A-AA girls state team tournament at Chattanooga Baylor High School.
   The loss by Elizabethton continued a trend of Carter County schools losing in the state tournament to private academies. Elizabethton joins the Cloudland football team and the Unaka boys basketball team as schools that this has happened to.
   "We're the only public school in the final four," O'Quinn said. "It's hard for a public school to compete against these academies. It showed today, but it's an honor to be here as one of the final four teams in the state. And I'm just so proud of the girls."
   Nobody had a tougher task on this day than Elizabethton's No. 1 player. Amanda Pike had to face one of the state's top players in Ellen Rogers.
   Pike lost her match 6-0, 6-2, but O'Quinn thinks the defeat will only help the freshman.
   "I think it should be a great confidence boost for her," O'Quinn said. "She can say she took two games from the lady that's probably going to win the state championship. She's just a freshman, and she has three more years to be down here."
   Pike had nothing but praise for her opponent.
   "That girl was awesome," Pike said. "She was very good. I think I could have probably player her better, but I played almost the best I could. I tried to keep up with her, but she just placed the ball too well.
   "Once we started hitting I could hit with her, but then she moved me around and everything and I just couldn't get to the ball."
   Pike believes the team will benefit from making it to Chattanooga.
   "This is a very good experience for the team," Pike said. "We've just flown by through the year, then we come down here and get beat ourselves. I think it's very good experience both mentally and physically."
   It was also a good effort from senior Hayley Shields. She lost 6-3, 6-0 to Morgan Desha, but it was a courageous performance considering that Shields didn't get to Chattanooga until the wee hours Tuesday morning due to the fact she had to work the night before.
   "I just think it feels pretty good to be at state our senior year, considering we are the only public school here," Shields said. "I think that's a big accomplishment for our school. This is the farthest we have ever gone."
   Shields knew the competition was just too tough on this day.
   "They're just so experienced, and we're just coming into this," Shields said.
   Shields played tennis all four years, and she saw the program go from lucky to win a match to making it all the way to Chattanooga.
   "It's awesome," Shields said. "I think it's the biggest accomplishment ever. It's really cool that we can say our senior year we went to the state."
   Liz Dove and Allison Parlier also gave good efforts for EHS. Dove lost to Elizabeth McClellan 6-1, 6-0, while Parlier fell to Megan Desha 6-2, 6-0.
   Elizabethton's Stephanie Schumaier also competed, but her match was suspended after Chattanooga Christian had clinched the victory.
   O'Quinn thought his girls gave it their all, but were just outmatched on this day.
   "A lot of these girls already have scholarships to colleges," O'Quinn said. "The one Amanda played is awesome. She hits better than most boys I've seen."
   The loss on Tuesday doesn't diminish the accomplishment by the Elizabethton High girls. The team has earned conference, regional and sectional titles this season in its first year in Class AA.
   O'Quinn treasures this experience.
   "This has been a great experience for me," O'Quinn said. "Coming in as a first year coach, we won the district, regional and we're one of the final four teams in the state in girls. In the guys, we were conference co-champs, and we still have Amanda and Liz in the state doubles. It's been a great year."
   The Lady Cyclones lose Schumaier, Shields and Kaci Campbell to graduation, but O'Quinn is confident that the Lady Cyclones can get back to Chattanooga next season.
   "We're going to give it our best shot," O'Quinn said. "We lose three of our girls, but Amanda and Liz at one and two are returning next year. Allison's just a sophomore, and Abby Bremer has shown a lot of improvement -- she'll be able to help us next year.
   "I definitely think we have a shot of being back here next year if we just continue to work and concentrate and do what we need to do."
   EHS notes: Pike and Dove will be in action in the state doubles tournament today at 11 a.m.