Young talent on display at Ridges C.C.

By Matt Hill

   JONESBOROUGH -- Tennis is played on a small court, but the tournament being held at the Ridges Country Club this weekend has a big field.
   Players from all over the area, including Elizabethton, will compete at the Chick-Fil-A Ridges Junior Open.
   The tournament begins today and runs through Sunday.
   Sixty-five players will compete in this event, as it has become one of the premier junior tournaments in the area.
   "It's USTA sanctioned this year, so that brought us quite a few good players from the area," Ridges Tennis Pro John LeKasic said. "The tournament is growing right up there. You've got the Johnson City Country Club Tournament, Little Caesars, and this one is in the mix."
   The tournament will be held on both the slow green clay and the faster hardcourt surface. LeKasic is going to try and keep the boys 18's on the hard courts.
   LeKasic believes that playing on two surfaces won't bother the players.
   "It's not going to have much bearing on these kids," LeKasic said. "It's not going to make much difference."
   The boys 18's should be a stacked division. The favorite here is Science Hill star Tommy Jones, a TSSAA state tournament qualifier the last two years.
   Abingdon's Kyle Allen and Dobyns-Bennett standout Matt Stanley should give Jones a tussle. Both of those players competed against one another last week at the Kingsport Open, with Stanley coming out on top in three sets.
   Also in the mix is Milligan College standout John Michael Lukianoff, who is nearing the end of junior eligibility.
   The boys 16's and 14's are headlined by a couple of Kingsport residents. Dobyns-Bennett's Preston Snead is the favorite in the 16's, while Josh Davis is the favorite in the 14's.
   The boys 12's is a wide-open division that includes Elizabethton's Chris Brumit. Adam Henderson and Mark David Fletcher also figure to challenge.
   "Those are pretty good players," LeKasic said. "All three of those guys."
   LeKasic thinks that Robert Fletcher is the kid to beat in the boys 10's.
   There will not be a girls 18's division, so the top division for the girls is the 16's.
   The favorite is Science Hill's Tara Byrne. Byrne was a TSSAA state doubles qualifier this year as a freshman.
   Byrne should be challenged by Elizabethton High standout Amanda Pike. Pike was a TSSAA state doubles qualifier this year, as she teamed up with Liz Dove to win district and regional titles.
   In the girls 14's, Caroline Crowe and Sarah Shortridge look like the girls to beat.
   Catherine Crowe looks to be the front-runner in the girls 12's, while Elizabethton's Jessica Brumit is favored to win the girls 10's.
   LeKasic is very happy to have Chick-Fil-A on board as the title sponsor for the event, and is grateful for their support.
   "They're fantastic," LeKasic said. "Tim Birchfield from Chick-Fil-A takes care of them. He has some different things to give away in the tournament."
   * There will be consolation matches played for the kids who are defeated. Those will most likely be moved to Liberty Bell.
   * The Ridges Tournament is not the only big event going on in the Tri-Cities this weekend. The Ridgefields Open began Thursday in Kingsport at the Ridgefields Country Club, and will run through Sunday."