Blue Raiders edge McMinn County

Blue Raiders edge McMinn County

April 13th, 2012 by Gene Henley in Sports - Preps

McMinn County's Mathew Pannell returns the ball to Cleveland High players during doubles play at Lee University on Thursday.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

CLEVELAND, Tenn. -- The Cleveland High School boys' tennis team has watched as McMinn County has dominated District 5-AAA the past few seasons. The same can be said for McMinn's girls with respect to Cleveland.

Both got a small measure of revenge Thursday.

Cleveland's Blue Raiders edged the Cherokees 5-4 while the Lady Cherokees beat the Lady Raiders 8-1 at Lee University. McMinn's boys had won four of the last five Region 3-AAA titles and advanced to back-to-back state tournaments, while Cleveland's girls claimed three straight region titles and went to Spring Fling in both 2009 and 2010.

The Raiders (7-1, 1-0) claimed the victory when Alex Klibisz won at No. 1 singles, defeating Michael Barlok 8-4. Kevin Harricharran and Jake Gibson also had singles wins for Cleveland.

"I'm very pleased by my boys," Cleveland coach Elizabeth Davis said. "They're a group of guys that are always together. Whatever they're doing, whether it's playing tennis or on a basketball court, they're doing it together, and I think it's built team chemistry in the meanwhile."

McMinn County coach Susan Ray was happy about the Cherokees' effort. They lost four seniors from last season's state semifinalist team, which was state runner-up the season before.

"It's almost like we've traded places, us and Cleveland," Ray said. "I was really pleased by the effort of my boys' team today. They really stepped up their performance."

Matthew Pannell, Cody Esparza and Paran Patel won singles 2-4 matches for the Cherokees (5-2, 1-1).

McMinn won five of the six girls' singles matches and swept in doubles. Maddie Ohlsson had the sole win for Cleveland, which lost five of its top six from last season.

"It's hard because the girls' team has pretty much been the same for the past three seasons," Davis said. "I didn't have to coach a lot and they knew exactly what to do.

"I don't like to say I'm rebuilding with this team. It's more of a regrouping process, but I think we can get there."