Russellville varsity tennis teams win sectionals

The Russellville High School varsity boys’ and girls’ tennis teams hosted the AHSAA Class 4A-5A Section 8 tournament on April 15-16 and both squads took first place to advance to state. Russellville’s teams have now won first place in section tournament play during the same season for two consecutive years after accomplishing the feat during the same season for the first time a year ago. The RHS girls and boys went a combined 12-0 in section championship matches this year.

GIRLS

            The RHS girls have now advanced to the state tournament every season since 2017. Head coach Charlotte Dollar’s squad is loaded with experience, and the group is led by a talented group of seniors that have now won the section team championship many times.

In the section tournament, Russellville High School had 49 team points and Brooks High School finished with 42. Both the section winner and second place team advance to the state tournament in Mobile.

No. 1 singles, Russellville’s Peyton Parrish defeated Landen McCalpin of Deshler (7-5, 6-0) in the finals. Parrish is a University of North Alabama signee and has battled an injury for much of her senior season at RHS.

No. 2 singles, Russellville’s Sofia Tiffin defeated Darby Clark of Brooks (6-1, 6-0) in the finals.

No. 3 singles, Russellville’s Lakin Derrick won a first-round match before falling (6-3, 6-0) to Joslyn Newton of Brooks in round two.

No. 4 singles, Russellville’s Kinsley Palmer defeated Anna Lee Hall of Brooks (6-2, 6-0) in the finals.

No. 5 singles, Russellville’s Lily Cate Pace won a first-round match before falling (6-3, 6-1) to Campbell Norris of Deshler in round two.

No. 6 singles, Russellville’s Sarah Kate Kiel defeated Aleece Hollis of Deshler (6-3, 6-0) in the finals.

No. 1 doubles, Russellville’s Parrish/Tiffin defeated Junkin/Clark of Brooks (7-5, 6-0) in the finals.

No. 2 doubles, Russellville’s Derrick/Kaitlin Speck defeated Priceville’s Burgess/Garnett in round one before falling in the semifinals (1-6, 6-1, 10-3) to Deshler’s Black/Norris.

No. 3 doubles, Russellville’s Palmer/Pace defeated Dunagan/Walton of Brooks (6-4, 6-1) in the finals.

“We’ve got seven seniors and all year it’s been our goal to get them back to state again and it’s been a hard battle,” Dollar said. “They’ve worked hard all year and we’ve had some ups and downs. We’ve also had a serious injury at our No. 1 which also affected our No. 1 doubles as well. She’s back playing and doing a phenomenal job while still battling that injury. Lakin Derrick did an amazing job filling in for her this season.” The senior girls are Peyton Parrish, Sofia Tiffin, Addie Strickland, Kaitlin Speck, Kinsley Palmer, Sarah Kate Kiel and Chloe Sheffield.

The success earned by the RHS program is a testament to the hard work by the players and also the coaching staff. “LeAnn Strickland is my assistant and has been for years. She is amazing and we would not be where we are without her. She’s a doubles specialist and makes sure our doubles are ready to go. This year we added Lee-Taylor Bishop and she has also been an asset to our program,” Dollar shared.

BOYS

            On the boys’ side, head coach Ben Phillips’ Russellville team took first place with 49 points and Deshler finished in second place with 43 team points. Both schools advance to the state tournament in Mobile.

No. 1 singles, Russellville’s Reece Carson won a first-round match before falling (6-4, 6-4) to James Mallette of Wilson in the semifinals.

No. 2 singles, Russellville’s Josue Tomas defeated Noah Hetrick of Wilson (6-3, 4-6, 11-9) in the finals.

No. 3 singles, Russellville’s David Tomas defeated Brody Black of Deshler (2-6, 6-3, 10-5) in the finals.

No. 4 singles, Russellville’s Bryan Ruiz won a first round match before falling (6-3, 6-2) to Oliver Thompson of Deshler in round two.

No. 5 singles, Russellville’s Bralynn Vincent defeated Chandler Peters of Wilson (6-0, 6-1) in the finals.

No. 6 singles, Russellville’s Malachi Duncan defeated Freddy Franks of Wilson (6-3, 1-6, 11-9) in the finals.

No. 1 doubles, Russellville’s Tomas/Tomas won a first round match before falling (6-2, 6-1) to Minshew/Brazeale of Deshler in round two.

No. 2 doubles, Russellville’s Vincent/Carson defeated Deshler’s Black/Black (6-0, 6-4) in the finals.

No. 3 doubles, Russellville’s Duncan/Drew Strickland defeated Deshler’s Thompson/Tidwell (6-4, 4-6, 10-7) in the finals.

“The kids are competitors,” Phillips said about his RHS team. “One through six, they played big.” The RHS boys’ team also has a group of senior leaders. “In ninth grade, I pulled them out here and they didn’t want to come. I told them that if they work and take it seriously then we’ll do something special. Last year we went to state and played well and this year I told them the same thing.”

Phillips credited the RHS coaching staff including Dollar, LeAnn Strickland, Kevin Strickland and Bishop for the success of both programs. “It’s incredible,” Phillips said. “It’s an amazing staff and amazing kids.”

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