Dutch Fork girls tennis is heading back to the state title match.
The Silver Foxes outlasted River Bluff on Monday night to claim the Class 5A Lower State championship. Dutch Fork’s No. 1 doubles team of Sam Calais and Alison Walsh provided the winning point as the Silver Foxes earned a 4-3 victory.
“It was an intense final match,” Calais said. “Last year, we were in that same situation and ended up on the wrong end of the deal. Tonight, we were focused on what we had to do.”
Calais opened the match with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over River Bluff’s Claire Floyd. Walsh dropped her singles match to Victoria Votion 6-3, 7-6, but knew she might get her chance at redemption.
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“I knew playing (Victoria) was going to be tough, she is a great player,” Walsh said. “I just tried to regroup and relax before going into the final match.”
Dutch Fork coach Gina Hilts praised her top players for coming back and getting the final point.
“(Sam) and (Alison) are strong players that have been together for a few years,” Hilts said. “We knew that both teams were capable and we expected to be playing a second doubles match.”
Dutch Fork returns to the state championship after falling in the Lower State final a year ago. The 2014 team won the state championship, and Hilts sees a little bit of that team in her current squad.
“That was a team with a few seniors, and a lot of talent,” Hilts said. “This team has some of that same senior leadership, and they know what to expect having been there before.”
That experience might have trumped River Bluff Monday, but coach Brian Lim was proud of the way his team executed.
“I told our girls to give me your heart, all you got, win or lose,” Lim said. “We haven’t been in this situation before, Dutch Fork has. In the end, they gave it their all.”
Dutch Fork advances to the Class 5A state title match, where it will face Rock Hill. The Bearcats defeated T.L. Hanna 4-2 to claim the Upper State championship.
Singles: Sam Calais (DF) def. Claire Floyd 6-2, 6-1; Victoria Votion (RB) def. Alison Walsh 6-3, 7-6; Morgan Campanella (DF) def. Maegan Togneri 6-2, 6-2; Liyin Zhu (RB) def. Megan Barkley 4-6, 6-0, 12-10; Kianna Thatcher (RB) def. Jenna Bradfate 7-5, 6-0. Doubles: Rachel Brannigan/Celine Robinson (DF) def. Elizabeth Roquemore/Shelby Byers 6-3, 6-3; Calais/Walsh (DF) def. Floyd/Votion 6-3, 6-2