River Bluff girls tennis has been preparing for this year ever since falling to Wando in the lower state final last year.
The Gators showed as much to upper state champion J.L. Mann on the Cayce Tennis Center courts Saturday morning.
River Bluff went up 3-0 in Nos. 1-3 singles, and after J.L. Mann won No.5 singles and No.1 doubles, Kiana Thatcher closed out a 6-3, 3-6 match with Eleanor Kneeland by winning the tiebreak 10-7 to secure the 5A state championship.
“We had a disappointing loss in the lower state finals last year,” River Bluff coach Brian Lim said. “We got these girls really focused this year and it’s awesome for us to finish on top.”
River Bluff (21-2) set the table for Thatcher’s deciding match when No.1 Jesse Hollins, No.2 Liyin Zhu, and No.3 Claire Floyd got victories over the Patriots top three players.
The Patriots (19-2) first got a win in No. 5 singles with Cassidy Carlson’s 6-0-6-2 win over Jordan Shaberg. Then they made it interesting when in No.1 doubles Hannah Ellis and Rebecca Haddad outlasted River Bluff’s Riley Mitchell and Patty Silva, who were looking to close out a title with a victory.
Instead, Mitchell and Silva fell 10-6, and Thatcher’s match with Kneeland took center stage.
“They were tough, that is an incredible team,” Lim said of J.L. Mann. “Their coach does a phenomenal job with them. We knew they would be a tough match, but we had a lot of girls play fantastic. It was an incredible job.
Thatcher’s win brought the River Bluff crowd onto the court.
“After she lost the first set, she was a little defeated but she kept going and never doubted herself,” Gators coach Brian Lim said. “She persevered, and it’s impressive. It’s hard. One on one, with these people out here, it’s not easy.”
Singles: Jesse Hollins (RB) def. Emerson Mitchell 6-4, 6-2; Liyin Zhu (RB) def. Caroline Mitchell 0-6, 6-3 (10-7); Claire Floyd 9rb0 def. Sidney Mitchell 6-4, 6-1; Kiana Thatcher (RB) def. Eleanor Kneeland 6-3, 3-6 (10-6); Cassidy Carlson (JLM) def. Jordan Schabert 6-0, 6-2. Doubles: Hannah Ellis and Rebecca Haddad (JLM) def. Riley Mitchell and Patty Silva 10-6