ALEXANDRIA – Greenfield-Central returned all three singles players from last season, while Alexandria had graduated all three from last year’s list, pitting three first-time college singles players against the experienced Cougars in the season opener on Thursday night.
As they battled the elements, their own emotions, and the tanned Cougars, the Tigers were more than ready for the task.
The Tigers’ No. 1 singles player, Carlie Remington, won a three-hour and 15-minute marathon match in come-back mode to end an emotional and dramatic 5-0 win over Greenfield-Central on a windy early April evening in Alexandria.
The Tigers also played with heavy hearts after Leslie Clark’s sudden death, mother of the Tigers sophomore – and expected No. 2 single player – Allie Clark in late March. A large portion of the Tigers’ team was at her public showing Thursday night.
“It’s been an emotional day for the team and for me,” said Alex coach Matt DeVault. “I’ve basically trained two of her kids because Dylan played for me two years ago and Allie plays for me now. She wanted to be a part of this. I told the girls before we went out there that’s more important. “Things like tennis right now. I could hardly hold it together when (Allie) told me what happened. I simply can not imagine a 16-year-old girl going through it.”
Clark’s teammates played inspired tennis in her absence.
“All that 5-0 was to Allie’s mother,” Remington said. “The fact that she was not here made us all pressured to make her proud.”
A varsity doubles player throughout his career in Alexandria, Remington had control 3-0 in the first set, only to see GC senior Zoe Stark storm back and take the first set 6-4. But as she battled the strong wind through several long rallies and points, Remington equalized the match on one set each with her own 6-4 victory in set # 2.
Remington was also down 4-3 in the third and decisive set before gathering to take the final three games and the match, her first win in college singles.
“It’s a huge win for her,” DeVault said. “She has been the leader of our team and returned last year from an ACL wear and missed the first two and a half weeks of the season. We got her back in the doubles and she had a great season in the doubles. I had alluded to her during the winter and thought about moving her to singles. She was very open to the idea and did not withdraw from it. “
“It felt great for my first time out,” Remington said.
All three singles matches went to a third set, and junior Gabby Hosier and senior Kara Simison – both saw their first college action – had to fight from behind to win theirs as well.
In the No. 2 match, Hosier looked early overmatched, losing the first set 6-2 and falling behind Greenfields Jaclyn Layton 4-3 and down at a break in the second. But Hosier regrouped, broke Layton’s serve and held on to a 7-6 victory to equalize the match.
She said it was a matter of calming her nerves and finding her groove as she turned the fight around.
“I was just a little nervous because I had never played college. I freaked out a little bit,” Hosier said. “When I got into it, I realized it was just another tennis match. I can do it.”
She ended her match – with the team’s victory for Alexandria – in control of a 6-3 victory in the third set.
“Gabby found a way to get a rhythm in her swing and got her opponent frustrated and that’s why she’s been able to play as well as she has. She does that in practice, too, ”said DeVault. “By the third set, she kept finding ways to win her serve, and the girl eventually got frustrated, and Gabby broke her serve.”
It was a similar story for Simons. After she and Cougar’s junior Brianna McConnell exchanged 6-3 set wins, Alex senior found herself down 5-4 in the third, but roared back to take the next three games for the win.
The singles sweep came well after the Alexandria doubles put the Tigers on a 2-0 lead.
There was no drama at the No. 1 double, with seniors Ally Honeycutt and Taylor Stinefield sending Allison Lowe and Hallie Smith quickly 6-1, 6-0 for the first point of the match.
At No. 2-double, Alexandria senior Emily Leever and junior Addy Warren were also in control, taking the first set 6-4 and leading 4-3 in the second, as Leever suddenly needed a medical timeout for some trouble breathe after a prolonged point. After a break in action and consultation with his coaches, Leever was able to continue and she and Warren finished with a 6-4, 6-4 victory.
“The girls wanted to win. They wanted to win for (Allie), ”DeVault said. “It was a good team that went in. They will probably be ranked in our district. For us to overcome the weather, the emotions of the day and a good team, it just shows my team’s class.”