Lady Golden Tigers earn first trip to state tennis tournament

For the past few seasons a trip to the state tennis tournament was barely out of reach for the Russellville girls team.

Several third-place finishes in the sectional tournaments kept the Lady Golden Tigers on the outside looking in since only the top two teams from each section head to state.

This year they finally broke through and earned the girls’ program its first trip to the state tournament in school history.

“It’s awesome,” said coach Charlotte Dollar. “They are pleased to be going. They’ve worked hard for several years to go.”

This year the team used some off time to practice for the sectional tournament. Instead of wasting time during spring break, team members reported to the tennis courts at 7:30 each morning for practice.

The practices paid off as Russellville finished second in No.-1 singles, No.-2 singles, No.-3 singles and No.-5 singles at the tournament. The Lady Golden Tigers won the No.-1 doubles and finished second in No.-2 doubles.

“Those morning practices helped out,” said senior Olivia Turner. “Winning against Muscle Shoals in doubles was a big motivation.”

Now Russellville must use that motivation as it prepares for the state tournament that begins Monday in Mobile.

Millie Fisher, another senior, said the team should have gone to state last season, but began to look ahead too early and fell behind in the sectional tournament and could not recover. That might have been a blessing for the team.

“We were more motivated to get better because of last year,” Fisher said.

One thing the girls did do last season was travel to Mobile to watch the boys play and get a taste of the atmosphere at the state tournament.

The boys were unable to secure a trip to Mobile as a team this season, but Kiefer Rea will be competing as an individual in No.-1 singles.

Paige Bowen said there has been some kidding going back and forth between the girls squad and the boys this spring.

“Everybody is excited and everybody is proud,” Bowen said. “But the boys have had their turn, it’s our turn now.”

Fisher said knowing what to expect will help the team this year.

“There is a lot more competition and the heat is going to be tough for us,” Fisher said.

The team is looking to build off its momentum from the sectional tournament. The win against Muscle Shoals was big for the team Turner said.

“They always beat us every time we play,” Turner said.

Dollar said the No.-2 doubles team lost to Muscle Shoals in a tiebreaker, so they should also be motivated by their performance.

Bowen said the difference between this season and previous years is that the team members this year have been very dedicated to succeeding.

She is optimistic about Russellville’s chances in Mobile.

“Hopefully we’ll win. We are glad to be going,” Bowen said. “If we win, we win.”

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