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Netters headed to regionals

By By Tony Krausz/assistant sports editor
June 7, 2003
Five area tennis players will be packing more than just their rackets and tennis balls in a week.
Boys' 14 singles players Wade Covington, Dawson Dyes, Jimmy Epps and Bryan Barham, and boys' 18 singles competitor David Ray will be heading off to the Southern Closed Junior Championships.
The 14-year-old netters will make their way to Macon, Ga., for the tournament that includes players from 13 states from June 14-21.
Ray will journey to Little Rock, Ark, for the 18-year-old regional hardcourt tournament.
If the players continue their tennis success at the Southern competition, they will qualify for the national tournament.
The young players earned the opportunity to compete at the Southern matches by virtue of their performances at the Mississippi Cabot Lodge Junior Qualifying Closed Championships in Jackson that were held on May 31-June 4.
Covington captured the top spot in the boys' 14 division.
He entered the state-wide tourney seeded No. 2, and he battled through five rounds, after receiving a first-round bye, to take first place.
Covington said his hardest match came in the quarterfinals where he battled Cliff Gaddy of Gulfport for three sets to take the match and advance to the finals.
He won the marathon match 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 to move on, but the victory did come from a few tense moments on the course.
Covington went on to take semifinal match against Corey Seay of Clinton 6-2, 6-4, and he rounded out his tournament run with another three-set match to win the tournament.
He defeated No. 1-seeded Aaron DeCamp of Brandon 6-2, 5-7, 6-3 to earn a trip back to the Southern tournament.
Covington went to the 160-draw event last year, but he failed to win a match fueling his desire to return this year.
Covington will be joined by Epps and Dyes at the Southern Closed Junior Championships.
Epps won three out of his five matches at Jackson to qualify for the event.
The young netter is also making a return trip to the regional matches, and he said the experience should help him this time around.
Dyes qualified for the Southern tournament at the closed junior championships, and Barham has been selected as an alternate for the regional competition. Dyes and Barham each won their first matches in Jackson.
While the players will be surrounded by a large contingent of players from across the South, they will also have a familiar face in the crowd during the tournament.
Gillette, who has been working at the Northeast Tennis Complex for about two weeks, was named the coach for the 14 year olds from Mississippi.
Gillette said the players will have plenty of work to do for the next week to prepare for the tourney.
Ray earned a berth to the 18-year-old Southern Closed Junior Championships by virtue of his third place finish at Jackson.
The tennis player, who will be going to Birmingham Southern next year, took four matches at the state tournament.
Gillette said playing in an event such as the Southern Junior Championships will be a great learning experience for all of the young players no matter how they finish in the standings.
The five male players were not the only ones to put on a strong show on the hardcourts at the Mississippi Cabot Lodge Junior Qualifying Closed Championships.
Meridian's own Elizabeth Case took first place in the girls' 10 singles competition. Competitors in the 10-year-old divisions do not qualify for the Southern tournament.
Case, who was the No. 2 seed at the tourney, defeated Sidney Lampton of Jackson in a first-round match up, and she advanced to the finals with a win over Katherine Bertaut of Jackson.
In the finals, Case defeated the No. 1-seeded Davis Beard of Natchez 2-6, 6-4, 6-2 to win the girls' 10 crown.