Tuesday, August 23, 2016

SPORTS STORY >> Panthers’ tennis rolls over Eagles

Leader sportswriter

The Cabot High School tennis teams played their first match of the year Monday at the CHS tennis courts, and the Lady Panthers and Panthers dominated, winning every varsity court in singles and doubles competition against Vilonia.

“As of right now we’ve won every court,” said Cabot coach Mary Emily Nash during junior varsity play on Monday. “So we’re very pleased. We have 10 seniors this year, so I have very high expectations.”

In singles competition, Lady Panthers Carly Carpenter and Kelsey David each won their matches by scores of 8-1. Carpenter beat Vilonia’s Lacy McKay, and David beat Lady Eagle Katie Johnson.

The Lady Panthers’ No. 1 singles player, Emily Sumler, had a more competitive match than Carpenter and David, but Sumler’s wasn’t that close. She beat Vilonia’s Brittany Mays by the final score of 8-4.

Both boys’ and girls’ teams have put in a lot of work in the offseason and also competed during the summer, and the hard work paid off on Monday.

“She’s another one that’s put in lots of time in the offseason to get a lot better and ready to play the kind of competition we’re going to see in the conference,” Nash said of Sumler. “So I’ve been very proud of her.”

The CHS girls’ No. 1 doubles team entering Monday, Jessica Vaughan and Julie Hill, edged their opponents by the final score of 8-6. Vaughan played another doubles match Monday, this time with Maggie Gibson, and those two beat the Vilonia team of Katie Johnson and Cassidy Williams by the score of 8-3.

Vaughan’s and Gibson’s win was officially a JV match, but it was an important match for Nash to see how those two gel together as a team.

“She likes to play doubles, but is also a hot doubles commodity,” Nash said of Vaughan. “Everybody wants to play doubles with her because she’s such a powerful player, and she’s a good team player, too.

“We haven’t found out quite yet who we’re going to match up with her, but she’s one who’s going to play well with whoever we put her with.”

The other girls’ doubles match in varsity play was Cabot’s Ally Bevis and Kaitlyn Follett against Vilonia’s Kristen Madden and Olivia Lowe, and the Lady Panther duo dominated that matchup 8-1.

Perhaps the most impressive win of the day for Cabot was in the boys’ singles competition. The Panthers’ returning No. 1 player, Clayton Ellis, beat John Hines 8-0. What made Ellis’ win impressive is that Hines entered Monday’s match having beaten Ellis the past two years.

“The kid he played today has beaten him the past two years, and Clayton won 8-0,” Nash said of Ellis. “He’s our No. 1 singles player, and we played a Searcy tournament a couple of weeks ago and he played two matches and didn’t lose a game.

“He’s been playing a lot of tennis in the offseason. Anybody that Clayton can find to play he’s played against. So it’s been other kids from this area, it’s been the adult men who play in this area. He’s always out at the courts.

“That and he’s reading a lot of tennis books about the mental game of tennis. So that’s brought him a long way, too. It’s definitely changed his whole mindset about how to play the game.”

Max Mathis played the other boys’ varsity singles match, and he beat Vilonia’s Mitchell Longley 8-1. In boys’ doubles competition, the Panthers’ No. 1 team of Bryant Cason and Parker Gibson won their match over the Vilonia team of Caleb and Jacob Baker by the final score of 8-4.

Cason and Gibson are two more Cabot players that return a lot of experience. Cason was one half of the doubles team that made it to the state tournament last year, and Nash is expecting a good year from this team, which has played together before.

“He and Parker actually played together two years ago,” Nash said. “They know each other really well and they’ve played a lot over the spring together to try and get ready for the fall.”

In the other varsity doubles match in boys’ play, the Cabot team of Nathan Ellis and Matt Walters edged Vilonia’s team of Denver Henson and Jace Farrier by the final score of 9-7.

The Cabot JV teams also had a strong showing on Monday. They didn’t win every match they played, but they won most of them, and like the varsity matches, most of those wins were in dominant fashion.

In boys’ doubles play, Nathan Ellis and Jake Goodman beat the Eagles’ team of Farrier and Grant Goers 6-3, and the Cabot team of Easton Usery and Grayson Newton won their doubles match 6-1. Usery and Goodman also paired up for a JV doubles match, and they won that game 8-0.

Usery and Newton also played and won a singles match apiece. Usery won his 6-1, and Newton shut out his opponent 6-0. The Cabot girls’ doubles team of Caroline Franklin and Eme Wylie also won their JV match by the final score of 6-0.

Several Lady Panther singles players won their JV matches by the same 6-0 score, including Ryane Thurman, Emily Belin, Hill and Franklin. Follett won hers by the score of 6-2, and Lady Panther Hannah Ringgold won a close 7-5 matchup.

The Cabot tennis teams play again tomorrow at home in what will be a much tougher test against Hot Springs Lakeside. The varsity players will take the court first and are scheduled to begin play at 3:30 p.m.