published Thursday, May 22nd, 2014

Baylor girls win fourth straight state title

  • photo
    Analisa Stratienko of GPS returns the ball during the Division II-AA doubles match with teammate Virginia Hammond against Baylor players Grace Petty and Drew Hawkins.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

  • photo
    Baylor's Drew Hawkins returns the ball during Division II-AA doubles match with teammate Grace Petty against GPS players Virginia Hammond and Analisa Stratienko.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
    enlarge photo

Spring Fling 2014 May 21-25, 2014 Murfeesboro, TN

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — One by one, the Baylor girls' tennis players came off the court. Tears overwhelmed some immediately; others, momentarily after. Yet the scene wasn't one after a close defeat.

It was one of reflection after a big win.

The Lady Red Raiders claimed their fourth consecutive Division II-AA state team championship Wednesday, defeating GPS 4-0 at Old Fort Tennis Courts. The win gives Baylor's five-player senior class a five-year record of 67-4.

It's the fifth straight season that either Baylor or GPS has won a state title, and the eighth time in the last nine years as GPS won four titles from 2006 to 2010.

The Lady Red Raiders (15-1) played what seemed to be their sharpest, most focused match in quite a while -- a part of which came from GPS claiming the doubles point in the teams' last match, eventually won 6-1 by Baylor.

"We were definitely out to get GPS in doubles today," Baylor senior Maggie Crumbliss said. "We played well and left it all out on the court; it was our last team match and we tried as hard as we could. I remember saying I wanted to win four when we were freshmen, and it's a good feeling to accomplish that."

Grace Petty, who transferred to Baylor from Crossville her freshman season, was teamed with Drew Hawkins at No. 3 doubles. They were ahead 7-2 when the match was called, after Baylor got doubles wins from Samantha Caswell with McCall Morgan and Harper Caswell with Crumbliss.

"I just enjoyed playing with this group of seniors, because it made me a better player and a better person," Petty said. "After the match, it kind of look like we lost because it was a great run and we're going to miss each other next year."

Singles wins came from Hawkins and the Caswell sisters. Hawkins' win sealed the team title and ultimately caused a tidal wave of emotion from Baylor players, parents and coaches.

"It was a very emotional day. Today culminated five years of nonstop hard work and focus, and it's come to an end," Baylor coach Dustin Kane said. "It's hard not to be emotional about that, but the girls played unbelievable -- it was one of the best matches we've ever played. To go out and perform at the highest level they could perform at, which they did, is a great way to go out, and they deserve every bit of it."

GPS coach Sue Bartlett loses three seniors but is real excited about an eighth-grade class coming in. The Bruisers finished 11-5.

"Baylor was really sharp today," she said. "It was hard for us to find a chink in their armor. I thought they played really well and didn't let us get in, which puts a lot of pressure on singles, but we played well at several positions. They just played well and deserve to win.

"Congrats to Baylor: They were just too good today."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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