After a historic run in 2019, this year’s Commerce girls’ tennis team appears eager to add to the record book.
Commerce beat Trion 4-0 Tuesday (April 20) at home in the second round of the Class A-Public tournament to advance to the Elite Eight. The Tigers reached the Final Four in 2019 for the first time in school history.
No tournament was held in 2020 due to COVID-19, but the Tigers appear to be making up for lost time in 2021.
Commerce recently won its second-straight region title and is now in the midst of another deep playoff run.
“Coming off a region championship, it’s a lot of pressure,” Commerce senior doubles player Joely Lord said. “It’s like you’re the best, so you want to go out there and dominate, and that’s what we did today.”
Commerce will host either Irwin County or Dublin in the next round. Irwin County is a No. 1 seed, but by virtue of the Tigers winning the universal coin flip, they have received hosting rights.
Commerce coach Charlie Smith said a trip to the Elite Eight “means the world for these seniors, and these juniors, too.”
“I’m incredibly proud of them and am looking forward to whoever we’ve got,” Smith said.
Against Trion, the top-seeded Tigers, who reached the second round by virtue of a first-round bye, picked up wins at each line, except for No. 3 singles due to that match being discontinued.
Commerce battled through tough opening set at three lines — No. 1 and 2 doubles and No. 2 singles — only to dominate the rest of the way in those matches.
“We kind of woke up,” Smith said. “We’ve tended to do that all year.”
While the plan was to get up early in sets and put pressure on Trion, Smith said his team has enough experience on the court — juniors and seniors at each line — to play through adversity when things don’t go as planned.
“You can see how much they persevere, and how much they believe in themselves and they believe in their teammates,” Smith said. “You can hear them cheering on each other during matches, which makes me so proud as a coach, for these girls to be down and then come back.”
Anna Taylor and Carson Hobbs won 6-4, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles in a match that started out close but didn’t end that way. The tandem rallied from a 4-3 deficit in the first set with victories in three consecutive games before winning the second set handily.
Meanwhile, the senior duo of Lord and Kaylee Martin at No. 2 doubles battled back from a 4-2 deficit in a first-set tiebreaker with five straight points to take the set 7-6. Lord and Martin then cruised to a 6-3 win in the second set.
Lord noted she and Martin had played just one tiebreaker prior to this match.
“During that first set, were were like we don’t want to play a third one (set), we’ve got to get the first one done at least,” Lord said. “Once we won that game, we got it in our heads that, ‘We’ve got this. We can do it.’”
Kamden Cotton actually dropped her first set, 6-4, at No. 2 singles, before recording a pair of quick wins in the the second and third sets, 6-3 and 6-1, in delivering a victory.
“She didn’t just leave it for the other girls to win and kind of buckle,” Smith said of Cotton’s comeback. “She said, ‘No, I want my point. I want to win my point for my team.’”
With the match already clinched for Commerce, Megan Suber still played out her second set at No. 1 singles, and it ended up paying off. She won a second-set tiebreaker, 7-2, giving her a 6-2, 7-6 victory and the Tigers a fourth point.
Commerce now looks forward to hosting another big match on its court. Lord said the team appreciates the hometown support.
“To know our community is behind us in this thing … It’ s really cool. It’s really special,” Lord said.
The Commerce boys’ tennis team will play its second-round match Thursday (April 22) at Armuchee.