During the 2012 football season, East Hamilton football coach Ted Gatewood was blessed with some talent at the tight end position. It turns out that Hurricanes tennis coach Michael Jackson was, too.
Bailey Lenoir and Erwin Kupris powered their way to the Region 3-A/AA doubles title Monday and a spot in the state tournament at the Champions Club, defeating Collegedale Academy's Austin and Victor Lee 7-5, 6-4 in the championship match.
Others earning spots in next week's Spring Fling were Hixson's Whitney Clack and Michelle Phillips in girls' doubles and Grace Academy's Blake Savard and Boyd-Buchanan's Katie Delay in singles.
Lenoir, who stands 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, plays tight end for the Hurricanes and is a highly regarded prospect at that position. Kupris, an exchange student, is 6-foot-3, 230 and played tight end for a team in Germany.
The two big guys exhibited a blend of power and a little finesse at the net during their two matches Monday. They jumped out to sizable leads in both sets, but had to hold off the Lee brothers each time.
"We had to finish them out," said Lenoir, whose brother Jackson was a state singles finalist at Arts & Sciences last year. "We let them back in it, but we decided we had to finish for once.
"It's an awesome feeling to be getting a chance to go [to state]."
Clack and Phillips dropped the first set of their championship match against Collegedale's Matti Sue Nafie and Emily Wilt, then had to win a tiebreaker in the second set before taking the third 6-3.
"We're excited to be going, especially since we're going to be going together," said Clack, a senior.
The junior Savard had played in three prior region tournaments. Last season ended in the title match. Monday, he fell behind 3-0 in the first set to Central's John Mitchell but reeled off 12 of the final 13 games for the victory.
"I didn't change much of my approach, but I adjusted my strategy," he said. "I always focused on winning the next point, but I became a lot more aggressive and hit to his backhand a lot more."
Delay defeated teammate McKenna Thomas 7-6 (7-4), 6-0 in her final.
A season ago, Notre Dame's Sarah and Katie Joyce were a part of the Lady Irish Class A/AA team state championship, while Chattanooga Christian sisters Ellie and Hannah Henry won the state doubles title.
There's a chance they all could switch places this year.
The Joyce sisters claimed the Region 4-A/AA doubles title, defeating the defending state champions 6-4, 7-6 (7-1) on Monday. Central Magnet's Mason Grear repeated as singles champion, beating Notre Dame sophomore Charles Jabaley 7-5, 6-4 in the final.
Signal Mountain will be sending three to the state tournament, as Kylila Tucker won the girls' singles title while Forrest Hooten and Adam Wolfe will be returning in doubles. The Eagles had final exams Monday, so their championship matches were played at Signal Mountain Town Hall.
The CCS Lady Chargers still have a chance to qualify for state as a team, as they play Boyd-Buchanan in a sectional match Thursday. A regular-season loss to CCS prevented Notre Dame from a chance to defend its state title.
At this point, said Katie Joyce, "We'll gladly switch titles with them. We worked well together, and I'm glad to get the opportunity to go to state with my sister."
Added Sarah: "Honestly, we would have liked to go as a team, but it's awesome that we get to go together."