It was going to be close.
Just how close is something Maryville High School tennis coach Liz Huffaker is in no hurry to see again anytime soon.
The Rebels became the first Blount County tennis team to claim the district crown since 1993 when they knocked off favored Farragut, 5-4, for the District 4AAA tournament championship last Thursday at Tyson Park.
Maryville entered doubles play trailing by point, needing both matches to achieve the improbable. To give the Rebels the edge, Huffaker shuffled the deck, pairing No. 1 singles player Lucas Kelley with Bixby Kennedy, assigning Kelley’s normal double partner, No. 2 singles player Ryota Yoshia, to pair with Justin Hawkersmith.
With both pairings firing away, Yoshia/Hawkersmith pulled Maryville even, setting the stage for a final four showdown between Kelley/Bixby and Farragut’s Alex Houck and David Jester.
“They got it even,” Huffaker said of the Hawkersmith/Yoshia match. “The clincher came down to the last people off.”
The Rebels only narrowly needed the final volleys. Hawkersmith had played splendidly in singles, falling in a tie-breaker that gave the Admirals a narrow lead. When he and Yoshia took that point back in doubles, Kennedy and Kelley brought it home, outlasting their Farragut counterparts, 8-6, for the title.
“I’m just so proud of every last one of them,” Huffaker said.
The news got only better on Tuesday. Back to their familiar one-two, Yoshia and Kelley, a state tournament qualifier in singles last year, ripped through the field to claim the district doubles crown for the Rebels, blowing by Farragut’s Tron Daering and David Jester, 6-1, 6-1. The doubles championship avenged a loss suffered by Hawkersmith/Kennedy earlier in the day to the same Farragut duo Kelley and Yoshia trounced for the title.