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Redskins fall in girls' tennis state playoffs
Despite the 'Sweet 16' loss, the doubles team of juniors Jada Conley and Caycelyn Davis won both their matches at Heard County.
Juniors Conley and Davis tennis BCHS
Juniors Jada Conley (left) and Caycelyn Davis (right).

There was no crying over spilled milk by the Bryan County girls tennis team after it was knocked out of the Class A-DI state playoffs Monday at Heard County. It marked the third straight year the Redskins reached the Sweet 16 only to come up short.

“It was disappointing but the girls had already turned the page by the time they got on the bus,” Coach Laura Blair said following the 3-2 loss. “They were already setting goals for next year and what they were going to have to do to get better and advance past the second round.

“We’ve got nine juniors and this is the third straight year they’ve reached the Sweet 16,” Blair said. “They’ve got grit and heart. This group has a competitive spirit and drive and probably the most decorated group of players to come through Bryan County High School.”

Bryan County’s two double teams held up their end of the bargain as both won their matches but singles proved to be its downfall as it dropped all three matches.

Jada Conley and Caycelyn Davis capped an outstanding season by winning their match, 6-2 and 6-0, while No. 2 doubles team Sarah Conner and Kayla Kilmer also cruised, 6-1 and 6-0.

Shae Coursey and Clara Howard at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, respectively, lost as did No. 3 Emma Strickland who belatedly gave the Redskins a glimmer of hope as after losing her first match, 6-0. She rallied late before falling 6-4 in her second match.

The lower part of the order had been Bryan County’s strength all season and Blair was hoping Strickland might be able to pull out a win.

“Our singles started slow before Emma started her comeback,” Blair said. “She just waited too long to get started. She had a lot to do.”

The two dominant doubles wins was no surprise as Blair said those pairings had been the least of her problems this season.

“I can count on them,” Blair said. “They just get it done. I just send them out there and don’t worry about it.”

Conley and Davis had an exceptional year as they finished the season 11-1 in their third year playing together.

The lone loss was in a non-region match and it served only to spur them on to get better.

“The loss did not sit well with them,” Blair said. “It stung and they said they weren’t going to lose again and they didn’t.”

“We have good chemistry,” Conley said. “We both started playing in middle school and started playing doubles together in high school. In tennis we’ve been on the same team for five years. We both also play volleyball and I think that helps our tennis.”

Knowing one another and playing together as long as they have in both sports has been a definite asset, Davis said.

“We know each other’s strengths and weaknesses,” Davis said. “I know what she can’t get and she knows what I can’t get and we’re both pretty well conditioned.”

That on court chemistry carries over off the courts, too.

“I feel like if you have a doubles partner you need to get along with them outside the courts,” Conley said. “We’ve been friends a while and playing volleyball has helped. I think serving in tennis is very similar to hitting the ball in volleyball. Not the same, obviously, but you do it similarly.”

Howard and Conner are the only seniors and Blair said she believes next year’s team will be a strong contender to win the region and break that Sweet 16 barrier.

“I’m excited about next year,” Blair said. “We should be pretty stout. These girls have improved a lot since they were freshmen and they’ve gained a lot of respect for this program.”  

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