Girls Regional Tennis: Lakeland Survives Tough Battle With Rival Jenkins
Thu. April 12, 2012 at 11:55 p.m. | By Polk Preps Staff
Lakeland's Ally Campbell defeated George Jenkins' Caitlyn Ryan 6-4, 6-4 during Class 3A regional tennis at the Beerman Family Tennis Center in Lakeland. (Photo by SCOTT WHEELER | THE LEDGER )
BY LISA COFFEY
LAKELAND | Dreadnaught Sarah Campbell asked where her inhaler was Thursday after Lakeland's Class 3A regional final tennis match with rival George Jenkins.
The entire crowd that stayed until 9:45 p.m. needed an inhaler after the marathon match finished with the Dreadnaughts edging the Eagles 4-3 in a match that was one for the ages and sent Lakeland to the state tournament as a team for the first time in some 20 years.
"I've never seen such persistent and talented young ladies," said Lakeland coach Stacy Huey. "We really wanted this win."
Lakeland advances to the state meet that begins Tuesday in Sanlando Park near Orlando.
Knotted at three victories each, the match came down to No. 2 doubles between Eagles Amy Whitehurst and Sandra Khalife and Dreadnaughts' Coleman and Alexis Kelson.
The Eagles won the first set 7-6 (7-5), but the Dreadnaughts, with Coleman gaining confidence with every shot at the net, won the second set 6-4 and the third 7-6 (7-4).
"I'm so excited and tired," Kelson said.
The two teams each tallied two singles victories.
Khalife topped Meredith Marshall at No. 2 singles, 6-2, 6-3.
Eagle Andrea Loret de Mola feated Coleman 6-4, 6-0 at No. 3.
Lakeland senior Ally Campbell topped George Jenkins' junior Caitlyn Ryan 6-4, 6-4 at No. 1 singles.
Then it was up to Lakeland senior Bailey Ferguson and Eagle Amy Whitehurst at No. 4 singles to give their teams an advantage heading into doubles.
Whitehurst prevailed 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.
The emotional pressure swung to No. 1 doubles between Dreadnaughts Campbell and Loret de Mola and Ryan.
Lakeland won 6-3, 6-2, setting up the marathon match at No. 2 that lasted nearly three hours.
The match featured tremendous net play by both teams with it all on the line.
Lakeland was leading the first set tiebreaker 3-1 before George Jenkins rallied back to take it 7-4.
The Eagles led the second set 4-1 when the Dreadnaughts turned it up and won three consecutive games. Lakeland continued to charge, taking the second set 7-5.
Instead of tiring, it appeared Coleman and Khalife managed to get sharper at the net as the match went on.
Lakeland led the third set 4-2 when the Eagles turned up the heat. The match was tied 5-5 in the third when Lakeland broke Whitehurst in a long game to go up 6-5.
With Coleman serving, Jenkins broke back while Whitehurst looked like a ballet dancer at the net, tying the set 6-6.
Lakeland gained a 3-1 advantage in the tie-breaker. Jenkins never gave up until the end when Kelson served the winning point.
"Jenkins is always our toughest match," Huey said. "We didn't know how we would do this year with a change in the districts. Even with Hillsborough and others, Jenkins is always our best competition."
"It was an epic battle," said Jenkins' coach Paul Walker. "For girls high school tennis to come down to that kind of pressure - it was just courage and heart on all sides."
The Eagles had defeated the Dreadnaughts twice in the regular season while Lakeland claimed the district title over Jenkins.
"They will remember it forever," Walker said. "Those two are great fighters on my team."