Just as important to Mark Hibbard, Excel coach, was the quality of the tennis played and the class shown by the players from both schools, he said Saturday.
The Excel girls won their matches, 4-1, against the Lady Colonels on Friday. The Eagles fell, 1-4, to the Colonels in their play.
It may have been a county rivalry, but the players on both teams showed a lot of sportsmanship, the coach said.
“Most of these kids know each other,” Hibbard said. “The match with Cass was really pleasurable. They encourage each other from both sides. I really respect that and like that. It speaks highly of the job a lot of the tennis instructors in this town are doing.”
The Lady Eagles swept at the singles and split at the doubles line.
At the No. 1 singles line, Moriah Hibbard won, 6-0, 6-1; No. 2, Miriam Hibbard recorded a 6-0, 6-0 win; No. 3, Callaway Ford won 6-4, 6-3.
At No. 1 doubles, Caroline Moore and Taylor Vaughan won 4-6, 6-4, 10-8 in the super breaker; No. 2 doubles, Tessa Thornbrough and Hanna Cauthin fell 4-6, 3-6.
In boys singles play, Simon Morris picked up the team’s victory at the No. 3 line, winning 7-5, 4-6, 10-5. No. 1 Cade Archer lost 2-6, 3-6 and Sam Kirkland fell 1-6, 3-6.
At the No. 1 doubles line, Stephen Barton and LaChaz Phillips fell 0-6, 7-5, 5-10 in the tiebreaker and at No. 2, Jake Newhouse and Andrew Tyree were outpointed 0-6, 3-6.
Hibbard said his team will learn a lot about its playoffs outlook the next week, after four region matches are etched into the record books.
He noted the girls are 5-0 on the season and several victories could provide them a good seeding in their regionals.
The coach is hopeful they will rise to the challenge.
“Moriah and Miriam are consistently winning for us at the No. 1 and No. 2 singles lines,” he noted.
He said the team is also getting a boost at the No. 3 singles line from Callaway Ford.
“She has played some USTA and worked extra on a some things and is really learning how to play,” the coach said. “Her last couple of matches have been the difference.”
He said Excel’s doubles players are winning their matches largely through the effort they put into it.
“Our No. 1 doubles team really fights hard,” he said. “The players might have a close one where they lost and this one where they’ve won.”
He said they are improving their game as the season progresses but there is room for more improvement.
“I wish they could get a few more things down, like better ball placement,” he said.
He said he lets a lot of players work at the No. 2 doubles position.
Hibbard said the Excel girls could experience some playoff success.
“I believe the girls have a chance to get past one or two rounds in the state playoffs if everyone stays well and plays well,” he added.
Hibbard said Excel’s boys tennis team are learning through their work at courtside.
“We are spending a lot time trying to encourage our boys team,” he said. “They haven’t played enough yet to be as good as needed to win at this level. Our No. 1, 2 and 3 singles players are good hitters but are getting there as far as developing into players. They all have good attitudes.”
He said it is crucial to their playoff hopes that they continue to improve their game.
“I am hoping by the time we get into region playoffs, we can pull off victories in one or two matches,” he said. “Then I hope we can pick up an upset in the region where we make it into a state playoffs. That would say a lot about how good they are.”
Hibbard said a lot of his players don’t play tennis except for the school team.
“Most of kids are recreational players,” he said. “We don’t get to practice much as we need, so I just try to load up during the season with as many matches as possible.”
Excel returns to the tennis courts on Monday when it visits Christian Heritage out of Dalton.