Dutch Fork’s phenomenal tennis season came to a close on Saturday at the Cayce Tennis Center, as the Silver Foxes fell 5-1 to T.L. Hanna in the Class 4A state final.
“We’re very proud of them. They worked hard all season, they’ve kept a positive attitude and they’ve been waiting for this all season,” coach Gina Hilts said. “They were very nervous coming in. This is big day.”
In their second state championship bid in as many seasons, the Silver Foxes had hoped for a perfect finish.
From their win in the preseason tournament at Florence through their 10-0 sweep of Region 5-4A, the Silver Foxes were dominant in 2013.
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“Every one of us wanted to win so bad,” said Sam Calais, who won the No. 2 singles court for the Silver Foxes, defeating Natalie Ivey 7-6 (7-5), 6-2.
“We lost this tough one, but we won region, and we had a great season.”
Dutch Fork got off to a solid start in the championship match, winning the first set on three courts.
Silver Foxes No. 4 Haley Owens rallied from an early deficit and outlasted Corbin Dorsey with nimble play to win the first set 7-6 (7-2). But Dorsey settled in and took the court with a 10-7 score in the third set.
Then, T.L. Hanna won the No. 3 singles court, putting Dutch Fork behind 3-0 in the match, with Silver Foxes Calais and Caroline Sloop each up one set on the remaining singles courts, and the doubles team of Sara Rhiem and Anna Maria Gardiner working to overcome their first-set loss.
“All three courts are very strong courts. I knew that they had a chance, and I wasn’t giving up on them,” Hilts said.
The pair won big points in the final games of the second set but, trailing by two games, could not hold off championship point.
As Hanna celebrated its title, Calais and Sloop tried to remain focused. Calais captured her court, and Sloop was fighting for a second set win — she had won the first set in a tiebreak, and was ahead 6-5 in the second set — before she had to retire.
The disappointment of the loss did not dull the shine of the Silver Foxes’ prospects for the future.
After the lone senior, Rhiem, accepted the state runner-up trophy for the Lower State champion Silver Foxes, Hilts encouraged her young team to get to work preparing for next year’s campaign.
“We’ll be back,” she told them. “We’ll be here again this time next year.”
“I’m really proud of everybody. We all worked very hard to be here,” said No. 3 singles player Alison Walsh, one of three freshmen at the top of the Silver Fox ladder. “We all played our best today, and we’re going to work very hard to be here again next year.”
Hilts said this season’s experience would fuel the Silver Foxes.
“We’ve got a whole bunch of juniors who will be seniors, and they’ve been here two years in a row now,” she said. “So we’ll be back next year, and we’ll be stronger next year.”
Singles: Ivey Welborn (TLH) d. Lauren Joch 6-2, 6-3; Sam Calais (DF) d. Natalie Ivey 7-6 (5), 6-2; Katie Loudermilk (TLH) d. Alison Walsh 6-2, 6-4; Corbin Dorsey (TLH) d. Haley Owens 6-7 (2-7), 6-2, 10-7; Anna Rice (TLH) d. Caroline Sloop 6-7, 5-6, retired. Doubles: Lauren Anderson /Claire Counts (TLH) d. Sara Rhiem/Anna Maria Gardiner 7-5, 6-4.