Pike, Dove  headed for Memphis

By Matt Hill

   The site of the Spring Fling may have changed this year, but the destination remains the same for Amanda Pike and Liz Dove.
   The Elizabethton High School standouts clinched a berth at next week's TSSAA State Tennis Tournament in doubles after winning 6-0, 6-4 over South Greene's Jessie Smith and Sarah Hopson during the Region I-A/AA Tournament at the EHS Tennis Courts.
   After going to Chattanooga last year, Pike and Dove will now take their show to Memphis.
   No matter where the state is being played, it's always a thrill for them to make it there.
   "It's really exciting, especially knowing that this is Liz's last year," Pike said. "Hopefully, we'll get further than we did last time."
   Said Dove: "I'm definitely happy about that. I know I'll be ready as soon as we get there."
   The road to Memphis might have been a little tougher than expected.
   After Pike and Dove won the first set and were up 4-1 in the second against Smith and Hopson, the Lady Rebel tandem went on to win three of the next four games to cut Pike and Dove's advantage to 5-4.
   But the Lady Cyclone tandem pulled out of the slump just in time to take the match on a day that was more suited for football than tennis with the cold and windy conditions.
   "The wind hindered our play," Dove said. "I'm for sure about that."
   Pike thought nerves also played a part in them having a rough time closing the match out.
   "I don't know what happened," Pike said. "We got kind of down and kind of nervous. We started missing the easy shots. I think we got a little too overconfident. We were trying to get it over with too fast, instead of taking our time and getting our shots in."
   Pike and Dove advanced to the finals with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over North Greene's Patricia Penley and Sara Klepper.
   Pike is happy with the two wins, but the sophomore standout knows she has some things to work on before heading down to Memphis.
   And one of those things will be controlling her nerves.
   "I'm going to be working really hard, because down there the competition is so much better than it is up here," Pike said. "
   Dove is already counting the days until they go.
   "I know I'll be ready," Dove said. "I'll be ancy, ready to play."
   In the girls singles final, Unicoi County's Amber Campbell won the region for the fourth-straight season with a 6-4, 6-4 victory over Volunteer's Morgan Smith.
   Campbell went four years at UCHS without losing a match to a Watauga Conference player.
   "God's really blessed me," Campbell said. "He's carried me through four seasons. A lot of players, they either lose or get injured, and I've just been blessed for four years."
   In the boys singles, the District I representatives dropped out early.
   Top-seeded Adam Cornett from Johnson County fell 3-6, 6-3, 6-1 to West Greene's Jason Smith, while Elizabethton's David Reece lost 6-4, 7-6 to eventual champion Kunal Jardosh of Gatlinburg-Pittman.
   With the exception of losing seven-straight games during the end of the first set and beginning of the second set, it was an admirable effort for Reece.
   Reece thought that the wind was definitely a hindrance to his game.
   "I would like to ask the city to buy some windscreens to put up," Reece said. "But that stretch of games from where I had a 4-1 lead in the first set to where I fought back in the second set was critical. I tired to dig deep and fight back, but it just wasn't enough."
   "I'm going to take some good things out of this match. I did lose, but I feel like I gave myself a good chance to win in the end."
   As for Cornett, it was a heartbreaking end to what was a great career. Cornett put Johnson County on the tennis map again, making it to the regional twice and winning the District title this year.
   Johnson County tennis coach Ryan Arnold is very proud of Cornett.
   "It is very disappointing that he lost," Arnold said. "He had a great career, though. As far as I know he is the best player to ever be at Johnson County. It's a disappointing loss, but he'll learn from it for his tennis future."
   Elizabethton's other girls doubles team also played well, but eventually fell to the South Greene tandem that ended up losing to Pike and Dove.
   Elizabethton's Allison Parlier and Abby Bremer lost 5-7, 6-4, 6-1 to Smith and Hopson in the first round.
   It ended up being a remarkable run for Parlier and Bremer. Last year, Parlier played at the bottom of the lineup, while Bremer wasn't even in the top six for EHS.
   Parlier thought that they had a good run.
   "I think we've both improved this year," Parlier said. "I'm really proud of how we both played."
   Unicoi County's Drew Parsons and Florian Schuchert won the boys doubles crown.