When playing against one another Tuesday, both Northside and Southside tennis players could agree on one thing.
They definitely appreciated the much cooler temperatures, and they were also happy the rain was able to hold off for the most part.
Northside and Southside players got ready for next month’s 6A-Central conference tournament by renewing the tennis version of The Battle of Rogers Avenue, held Tuesday at the Fort Smith Athletic Club.
“(The weather) felt really good; I was really happy with how I played,” Northside No. 1 girls singles player Kate Files said. “The wind was a little bit tricky sometimes, but overall I was pleased.”
Files, the junior seeking to win her third straight conference title, took care of business in her match Tuesday, winning 8-0.
She moved her overall record this season to 10-2. One of those losses was to Mount St. Mary’s Presley Sutherland, whom Files might see at the conference tourney, which takes place Oct. 7-8 in Little Rock.
“I’ve been working on my serve a lot; my serve felt really good (Tuesday), it was going in a lot,” Files said. “That’s been my biggest thing is just getting my first serve in, so it felt good (Tuesday) and I’m excited for (conference).
“I think I’ve stayed focused a little bit better this season. I’ve worked on more things and added more things to my game, so that’s my biggest thing, just improving overall.”
Northside coach Martin Hyatt believes Files will be more than ready to defend her conference championship.
“What will help Kate during the conference is that we’re now playing sets, not just one match to play a set to eight (points),” Hyatt said. “This is where all the conditioning and the heavy hitting she’s done during the heat of the summer will play to her advantage; you can get down, you can lose a set, adjust and if you’ve got the physical stamina which she has, then you can overcome.”
The Lady Bears and Mavericks were tied at 4-4 before play was suspended due to rain, with the remainder of the match expected to resume on Wednesday. Southside held a 5-3 edge in the boys division.
Also in girls play, Southside’s No. 1 doubles team of senior Jordan Cormier and junior Annie Nelligan stayed perfect on the season, winning their match 8-2. They also locked up the top seed at next month’s conference tourney.
“This was kind of the final hurdle for that,” Southside coach Braden Eads said. “That was our first goal, to get the No. 1 seed at conference, and that’s not the end goal; I made sure I talked with them, saying, that’s step number one, get the No. 1 seed.
“But that doesn’t guarantee you winning anything, that’s just a step. That was very important with them, they had to win this one and they took care of business just like they’ve done all season.”
Southside’s No. 1 boys doubles team of Reiter Ahlert and Daniel Kiss held off Northside’s top team of Griffin Huckelbury and Sam Carlisle, 8-6.
“(We just had to) keep the ball in play, wait for them to make a mistake and try to put away as many shots as we could,” Kiss said.
It is the second year for the tandem of Ahlert, a senior, and Kiss, a junior. They believe they have a great chance to make it to state after Southside was denied a trip to state in the boys division last season.
“I do; I think we have a very solid chance because of the chemistry we have now and we can definitely play,” Ahlert said.
“(We are strong in) net play; when we’re up at the net, we’re basically a wall and put away shots. Also, we’re hitting really strong serves.”
Kiss said that the doubles team has the total package in several areas besides serving and net play.
“Also forehands, backhands, we’re doing well. … We know each other very well,” Kiss said.
Ahlert added he was glad to win his last match at home and pointed out the support he and the Mavericks have received all season from students, faculty and other sports teams. That included the Southside baseball team, which had several members in attendance Tuesday.
“It was awesome; we had a bunch of people come out and support; the baseball team was here and that was awesome,” Ahlert said. “The basketball team’s come out, and so has the baseball team; I think the volleyball team’s come out a couple of times and it’s been awesome, because we haven’t had that in the past, so really having that extra support around our back has been great and I appreciate it.”
Northside’s top two boys singles players, Will Thames and Kadin Hyatt, each won their matches, 8-2 and 8-6, respectively. The Grizzlies’ No. 2 doubles team, comprised of freshmen Trey Rajsombath and Kevin Praphan, also prevailed, 8-2.
“I was pleased with the performance of the fellows (Tuesday); we won and I think Will Thames, who’s playing against Robinson (Wright, a freshman) who’s hot and on a roll, and Will just took command early. … He’s not going to beat himself,” Martin Hyatt said.
“I also feel like the freshmen doubles team should get a good seed and they’re unknowns; people haven’t seen them, their opponents don’t have a scouting report on these guys because they’re both freshmen.”
Southside’s No. 2 girls singles player, Callie Shannon, posted an 8-2 win in her match, while the Southside No. 2 girls doubles team of Ashlyn Roffine and Kate Coleman prevailed, 9-7.