LEBANON – At this time last year, Wilson Central freshman Blaine Smith was developing his game playing for West Wilson Middle School where he was a top two singles player during his middle school career.
Moving into high school tennis has been a bit of a challenge for Smith, but he’s learning on the fly – even if the balls are flying much faster than before.
Smith and fellow freshman Sean Brown suffered their first district doubles lost, but rebounded to pick up a pair of singles wins as the Wildcats took down Lebanon 5-2 at Boyd-Rushing Courts Tuesday evening.
Brown and Smith’s 8-5 loss to Lebanon freshman Grayson Campbell and junior Eddie Smith seemed to inspire the duo during singles play.
The transition from middle school tennis to high school has been difficult at times, but Smith is learning to match the adjustment.
“The competition is a lot harder, and if you just hit the ball in play you won’t win,” Smith said
“You have to have better strokes, and learn to outplay your opponent with different tactics.”
With Wilson Central (3-0 in District 9-Large, 4-1 overall) clinging to a 3-2 lead, Smith took down Lebanon sophomore Nick Moulton 6-1, 6-3 for the team’s fifth point.
Brown had his second match-clinching point with a 6-1, 6-1 outcome over fellow freshman Rex Nave.
Smith and Brown make up two of the five Wilson Central freshman which have shown much improvement throughout the early part of the season.
“We’re doing better as a group. We lose some, but we’re getting better,” Smith said.
“We just want to leave our mark on the program and make it the best we can.”
Wilson Central sophomore AJ Hughes and senior Michael Mercante picked up an 8-2 win over Nave and sophomore Linden Palmer at No. 1 doubles.
Mercante earned a 6-1, 6-2 win over Palmer at No. 1 singles while Hughes claimed a 6-0, 6-2 win over Eddie Smith at two singles.
Campbell upended Wilson Central sophomore Caleb Brown 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Unlike the Wildcats, the Lady Wildcats feature much more experience as a whole.
That experience came in handy as Wilson Central (3-0, 4-0) toppled Lebanon 5-2.
At No. 2 doubles, Lebanon juniors Lu Lu Hershey and Hannah Lawson controlled the Wilson Central duo of senior Abby Moser and junior Kiersten Moss throughout a majority of the match.
Hershey and Lawson held a 6-4, 40-30 lead before the Lady Wildcats claimed the last four games and an 8-4 win.
The experience difference played a pivotal role in the clinching match at No. 2 singles as Wilson Central senior Sydney Miller fought through a nip-and-tuck first set with Lebanon freshman Sophia Skelton.
Miller overcame an early first set deficit to force a tiebreaker.
Miller’s experience took over as the senior took the early lead before winning the tiebreaker 7-5.
The second set went the way of the Lady Wildcats as Miller rolled to a 6-1 second set win.
“I feel like she was able to get the ball back in play, but I hit some different shots that I think really helped me out,” Miller said.
“She (Skelton) played well, but I feel like I did a good job of handling myself in pressure situations.”
Miller and senior Savannah Westbrook rolled at No. 1 doubles to get Wilson Central its first point with an 8-3 win over Lebanon senior Nicole Bashour and sophomore Emma Claire Minter.
Westbrook continued her solid play as of late with a 6-2, 6-0 win at one singles over Bashour for the Lady Wildcats’ third point.
Wilson Central junior Kiersten Moss downed Lebanon freshman Chloe Hatfield 6-2, 6-4 at No. 4 singles.
Lebanon picked up its first win in singles as Minter won a tight match against Moser at three singles 5-7, 6-2, (10-7).
Lawson held off Lady Wildcat senior Kaylee Wilson 6-4, 7-6(5).
Wilson Central will now play Macon County on Wednesday March 27 at “The Rock” on the campus of Wilson Central High School. Match is slated to begin at 4:00pm.