Lady Cyclone tandem drops state final in three sets

By Matt Hill
STAR STAFF
mhill@starhq.com

   MEMPHIS--Amanda Pike and Liz Dove looked like they were headed toward a state championship after winning the first set on Thursday, but it ended up being a heartbreaking day for the tandem.
   The Elizabethton High standouts finished out an incredible run yesterday in a 2-6, 7-5, 6-1 loss to David Lipscomb's Brittany Stewart and Leigh Ellen Bruce in the Class A/AA State doubles championship match at Hutchinson School.
   It was a defeat that was a little tough to take for Dove, who played her last match as a Lady Cyclone Thursday.
   "I'm heartbroken," an upset Dove said. "We could have beaten them. We killed them in the first set. We fell apart."
   Pike and Dove started out well for the third match in a row, but once again struggled in the second set.
   On Wednesday in the semifinals, Pike and Dove regrouped to win the third set and the match.
   But on Thursday, a third-set rally just wasn't in the cards.
   "We won the first set pretty easily, but then in the second set we got down and we couldn't come back," Pike said. "I don't know what happened. I have to admit that in the third set they outplayed us. In the third set they played awesome."
   The dagger might have occurred when Elizabethton was serving to send the match into a second-set tiebreaker, and actually had two points to do it.
   But Bruce and Stewart stepped up their play to finish out the game and send the match into a third set.
   Pike and Dove never really recovered from that, as the third set belonged to the team from David Lipscomb.
   "Whenever we lost that second set, I was just thinking about how we lost the second set yesterday, and we came back and won that," Pike said. "I was hoping that would happen in this match, but they were better than the two girls we played yesterday. We just couldn't hold on to it."
   Playing in a state final would be nerve-racking for some, but Pike and Dove looked like gangbusters at the start. They used great shot selection and placement to breeze to a first set win.
   But once the Lady Cyclone duo got closer and closer to winning a state title, Pike thought the nerves really began kicking in.
   "The nerves did get to me in that first set when we were down 4-1," Pike said. "They really got to me, knowing that it's going to take a lot of hard work to get back into it. It really gets to you when you think about how hard you've got to work."
   It was a disappointing defeat to say the least for Pike and Dove, but Pike didn't think it was because of a lack of effort.
   "We tried our best," Pike said. "We tried our best, but it just wasn't good enough, I don't guess."
   The loss ends what was a special career for Dove. The defeat definitely didn't take away from it.
   Dove didn't lose a conference singles match this year, and Pike and Dove lost just one conference match in doubles in 2003.
   Dove also made the state tournament last year with Pike, as well as in the team competition.
   According to Elizabethton coach Danny O'Quinn, he feels like she is one of the best players ever to play at Elizabethton High School.
   "In my two years at Elizabethton, I think she only lost one match in conference play, and then she and Amanda in doubles, I think they've only lost one match in the conference," O'Quinn said. "To make it to the state tournament two years in a row and to finish second this year, we're definitely going to miss her.
   Dove thinks she will eventually be able to smile about what her and Amanda accomplished this week.
   "I'm proud of how far we got," Dove said.
   O'Quinn will have Pike back next year, so he expects her to return to the Spring Fling before her career is out.
   "Next year she will probably go the singles route, so maybe we can get down here in singles next year," O'Quinn said about Pike.
   Overall, O'Quinn couldn't be happier about the tournament considering the circumstances.
   "Once again, we lost to a private school," O'Quinn said. "I don't think private schools have any business playing public schools, but they're a good team. The girls played hard, we just didn't come out on top this time."