published Saturday, June 9th, 2012

Tarah Garner and Sarah Evans teaming up at Tennessee Valley Open Championships

Staff Photo by Tim Barber
Boyd-Buchanan's Tarah Garner returns a serve from Silverdale Academy's Lauren Milligan during the girls District 5A/AA finals at Lee University on Tuesday. Garner took the championship 6-0, 6-0.
Staff Photo by Tim Barber Boyd-Buchanan's Tarah Garner returns a serve from Silverdale Academy's Lauren Milligan during the girls District 5A/AA finals at Lee University on Tuesday. Garner took the championship 6-0, 6-0.
Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press 
Sarah Evans returns a serve to Baylor's Samantha Caswell during Sunday's championship semifinals at the McCallie School tennis courts. Evans is a student at the Girls Preparatory School.
Staff Photo by Jake Daniels/Chattanooga Times Free Press Sarah Evans returns a serve to Baylor's Samantha Caswell during Sunday's championship semifinals at the McCallie School tennis courts. Evans is a student at the Girls Preparatory School.

Tarah Garner and Sarah Evans aren't quite sure how long they've been playing doubles together in tournaments. The consensus is that it's somewhere between five and 15 years, with no clear answer.

The two are participating in the Tennessee Valley Open Championships at Manker Patten this weekend, taking some downtime from their college careers. Garner will be a senior at Lee University in the fall, while Evans will be a junior at Wofford College.

Also playing in the TVOC is 2011 Calhoun (Ga.) graduate Jodie Rice, who will be a sophomore at Lee. University of Tennessee at Chattanooga standouts Kaylene Chadwell and Emily Hangstefer are also participating, as are Baylor rising juniors Samantha Caswell, Harper Caswell and McCall Morgan.

University of Tennessee at Chattanooga signee Alison Storie from Science Hill is in the field as well.

Garner was a two-time Class A/AA state singles champion while playing at Boyd-Buchanan from 2005 to '09, while Evans played at GPS from 2006 to '10 and won the Division II-AA state her senior season.

They have been playing USTA doubles together "for a long time," according to Garner.

"I do find it refreshing to play with a familiar face," she said. "When you've been playing with somebody for a long time, you know what they're going to do and vice versa. You can know their moves and be able to react to them."

She played No. 3 singles for the Lady Flames this past season, helping them to a 9-7 record. After a sophomore season in which she admitted she "lost her backhand," her junior season went more to plan.

"There were just a lot of mental issues and anxiety there," explained Garner, who is majoring in telecommunications. "I had a lot of coaching in the offseason and I felt that my forehand came back better than ever, which I had hoped for.

"I was able to start from scratch, and this season was the most fun I've ever had at Lee."

Evans' success her freshman season catapulted her to the No. 1 singles slot for Wofford this past season. She went 16-8 her first season playing No. 3 and 4 singles, but that slipped to 6-13 as a sophomore.

"I've really enjoyed it there so far," she said. "I had a good freshman season and ended up moving to No. 1 singles and doubles. It's a lot more challenging, thought, and I didn't have as good of a record."

The two enjoy partnering together at the TVOC, spending as much if not more time laughing and having fun as they do on the court.

"It's just different playing with somebody else," Evans said. "When we play together, we just laugh and have a good time."

There won't be much other than relaxation and enjoying the summer after this weekend. Garner has recently taken up horse shows and is in one that starts today, in addition to the tennis tournament. She already has one fan booked for her competition -- Evans.

"She did the introduction at my chapel talk for me my senior year at GPS, so it's the least I could do for her," Evans said.

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