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RHS tennis teams advance to state

The Russellville varsity boys’ and girls’ tennis teams recently hosted the 4A-5A section 7 tournament, and both squads took second place to advance to state competition.

Teams from Russellville, Deshler, West Point, Brooks, Central-Florence, Fayette County and Wilson took part in the sectional event, with West Point taking first place in boys’ competition and Deshler finishing in the top spot for girls.

The first- and second-place schools in sectional tournament play both advance to state in Mobile, and the RHS boys needed a win in a tie-breaker versus Deshler to qualify.

Sectional tournament action started April 16, and the Russellville girls’ team advanced to state for the third-straight season.

RHS had six girls participate in the singles tournament, and three doubles teams also hit the courts. In No. 1 singles, Russellville’s Anna Woods advanced to the finals and lost to Deshler’s Anna Holway. Senior Emma Claire Bragwell made it to the semifinals in No. 2 singles, and first place in No. 3 singles went to Ellyse Strickland, who defeated Abbi Holley of Deshler. Seventh-grader Peyton Parrish lost in the finals of No. 4 singles to Deshler’s Karsen Kelley, while No. 5 Kaydee Holland defeated Lauren Buckner of Deshler in the finals. No. 6 Natalie Busler also made it to the finals, and she finished in second place to Kallie Burden, also of Deshler.

In doubles, Russellville’s No. 1 duo of Woods and Strickland made it all the way to the finals and fell to Holway and Holley from Deshler. No. 2 doubles also went to Deshler, as Vandiver and Buckner of DHS defeated Bragwell and Parrish of Russellville in the finals.

In No. 3 doubles, Russellville’s Kaydee Holland and Avary Miller advanced to the semifinals and dropped a match to Brooks.

“They played really, really well,” said Russellville girls’ coach Charlotte Dollar. “They did a great job all year fighting hard, especially after losing four players. They came into the tournament in second place and held onto that and got second place in the tournament, so they did a great job.”

The RHS trio of Woods, Strickland and Holland have all been key parts of this season’s team as juniors. “I’m super excited,” Woods said. “It was a fun day today, and I’m proud of our team and how much we’ve worked today to go to state.”

Strickland also shared her thoughts after the sectional tournament. “I’m proud of everybody,” she said. “That last match (No. 1 doubles) wasn’t the outcome that I wanted, but of course, I’m happy that we’re going to state.” Holland said she is also looking forward to going to Mobile. “I’m really excited about how today went,” she shared. “I’m upset about doubles – it shouldn’t have ended up that way – but I’m very happy with how singles ended. Winning felt great because I’ve never won section myself.”

The Russellville boys needed a pressure-packed tie-breaker win over Deshler April 17 to punch their ticket to state. Tie-breaker rules dictated the two team’s No. 1 singles, No. 6 singles and No. 2 doubles would each play a match, with the advancing school needing to take at least two of the three matches that took place simultaneously on courts next to each other.

The RHS doubles team of Anthony Ruiz and Samuel Franklin took care of business first by picking up a win, and then No. 1 singles player Ethan Howard took down his opponent, meaning the No. 6 singles match being played by Eduardo Vargas Carillo of Russellville did not have to continue.

On the day before the tie-breaker, Russellville had finals appearances in the sectional by No. 1 Howard and No. 3 Kiah Derrick on the singles courts and by No. 1 Howard/Derrick and No. 3 Tino Soto/Vargas Carillo on the doubles side. No. 2 Anthony Ruiz, No. 4 Franklin, No. 5 Soto and No. 6 Vargas Carillo all made it to the semis, as did the No. 2 doubles team made up of Ruiz and Franklin.

Boys’ coach Brett Voss said he has seen his group progress while they have gained experience. “I started with them three years ago as a bunch of eighth-graders and ninth-graders who had never played tennis,” he explained. “They’ve worked their tails off for two or three years now, and they’ve put themselves in this position.

“We were actually the top seed on six of the nine courts, so we were looking to win the section, but adversity struck,” Voss added. “I was very concerned coming into today because of how horrible we played yesterday, but as you could see, the kids responded well, and they played how they’ve been playing all year long. We finished the regular season 12-2, and that was the team that I’ve been accustomed to seeing all year long.

“I have no idea what happened yesterday, but I really don’t care because we’re state-bound.”