Russellville tennis teams qualify for state after strong showing at sectionals

The Russellville girls’ and boys’ varsity tennis teams are headed back to the state tournament.

The Golden Tigers hosted the AHSAA Class 4A-5A Section 8 tourney April 11-12, with the RHS girls taking first place and the Russellville boys finishing in second, which qualifies both for state, which will be held in Mobile.

Russellville’s girls finished with 52 team points in the section tournament, while Deshler’s girls came in second with 32 points. Joining those two squads in Section 8 were the teams from Brooks, Central-Florence, Rogers, West Point and Wilson.

“I’m so proud of them,” Russellville girls’ head coach Charlotte Dollar said of her team. “They’ve played so hard all year, and they’ve worked hard. They took lessons, and they have pushed each other, and they love each other, and I love them.

“They are a wonderful group of girls, and I couldn’t be more proud of them.”

In girls’ No. 1 singles, Russellville’s Peyton Parrish won first place. After a first round bye, she defeated Deshler’s Lauren Hand in round two and Reagan Dickerson of Wilson in the final by a 6-0, 6-0 score.

No. 2 singles went to Sofia Tiffin of RHS. Tiffin also had a first round bye. She then defeated Anna Lee Hester of Deshler in round two and topped Darby Clark of Brooks 6-2, 6-4 in the finals.

No. 3 singles was won by Natalie Busler of RHS. After a first round bye, she defeated Anna Lee Hall of Brooks in round two and Rosie Thompson of Deshler in the finals 6-3, 6-1.

Russellville’s Avary Miller had a first round bye in No. 4 singles and defeated Audrey Dunagan of Brooks in round two before falling in the finals to Deshler’s Landen McCalpin 6-3, 6-4. In No. 5 singles, Addie Strickland of RHS took first place by defeating Lottie Burks of Rogers in round one, Deshler’s Kaylee Bennett in round two and Makayla Carter of Wilson in the finals.

No. 6 singles went to Russellville’s Kinsley Palmer. She defeated Ellie Fielder of Rogers in round one, Emma Darby of Wilson in round two and Deshler’s Anna Katherine Johnson in the finals 7-6, 5-7, 1-0.

In girls’ doubles Russellville took first place at No. 1 with Parrish and Tiffin and No. 3 with Madeline Cooper and Leah Rushing.

“I’m just really thankful for this team, and I’m excited,” said Russellville senior Madeline Cooper. “This is my first time being able to play on varsity. Last year I went to state as an alternate, and I’m excited to go this year and be able to play with my team. I love them, and I love Coach Dollar and LeAnn Strickland, and I’m just thankful that we’re going to have this opportunity.”

Rushing also said she was happy to make it to state during her senior year.

“I just have to say that this has probably been one of the best seasons ever,” Rushing shared. “I’m not just saying that because I’m a senior and I just won, but I’m saying that because I do love this team so much, and I think that we’re very, very special. We have a ton of talent, and we just act like a bunch of sisters. We’re around each other 24/7, and it makes it so much better when we love each other because if we all hated each other, we would have zero fun.”

Parrish agreed the squad is a close family. “I’ve been so thankful for this season and all of these girls,” Parrish said. “I feel like we’ve worked really hard this year, and I’m so thankful for both of the coaches, Coach Dollar and LeAnn. They really teach us well and coach us to the best of their ability, and I feel like this team is just like family.

“Everyone loves each other, and I love tennis so much.”

On the boys’ side, Deshler took first place with 39 team points, with Russellville coming in a close second with 38.

Russellville’s Kiah Derrick defeated Jared Smith of West Point in No. 1 singles round one before falling in round two to Wilson’s James Mallette 6-3, 6-3. Mallette went on to qualify for state by winning No. 1 singles first place and also in No. 1 doubles by taking the top spot with teammate Noah Hetrick.

In No. 2 singles Russellville’s Bryan Ruiz fell in round one to Carter Duke of West Point 4-6, 6-4, 1-0. Josue Tomas of RHS won first place in No. 3 singles by defeating Evan Franks of West Point in round one, Edward Jones of Brooks in round two and Brody Black of Deshler in the finals 0-6, 7-6, 1-0.

Ayden Boyd of Russellville got a round one bye in No. 4 singles and then defeated Wilson’s Justin Blasingame in round two before dropping a finals match to Deshler’s Braxton Black 6-2, 1-6, 1-0.

In No. 5 singles, Russellville’s David Tomas had a first round bye. He then defeated Jayden Laney of West Point before falling to Chase Haskover of Brooks in the finals 6-4, 4-6, 1-0.

Carlos Richardson of RHS made it to the finals in No. 6 singles. He had a first round bye and then defeated Central’s Silas Jones before falling to Deshler’s Oliver Thompson 6-4, 6-3.

In boys’ doubles, Russellville’s No. 1 duo of Kiah Derrick and Bralynn Vincent defeated Central’s Conner Hall and Taylor Brewer in round one before falling in round two to Deshler’s Everette Minshew and Mitchell Brazeale 6-3, 6-2.

The RHS No. 2 doubles team of Ruiz and Boyd fell in the finals to Aaron Peck and Aiden Crittenden 6-4, 6-4.

Taking first in No. 3 doubles were Josue Tomas and David Tomas of Russellville. After a first round bye, they defeated Wilson’s Chandler Peters and Freddy Franks in round two and Deshler’s Brody Vandiver and Oliver Thompson in the finals.

“Nobody thought we’d be up at the top,” said Russellville boys’ head coach Ben Phillips. “We graduated a ton of players last year and the year before that, and the COVID year was rough on us.

“I’ve got two eighth-graders in the top six, and I’ve also got ninth- and tenth-graders,” Phillips noted. “This team is learning how to win.”


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