Hixson coach Raul Fernandez drilled his boys' tennis team on a lot of singles this week leading up to Thursday's Region 3-A/AA championship match against Boyd-Buchanan. The hard work paid off.
The Wildcats claimed their first-ever region championship with a 5-0 win over the Buccaneers at the Brainerd city courts, while the Boyd-Buchanan girls earned their fourth consecutive region title with a 4-0 defeat of the Lady Wildcats.
The Lady Bucs (17-0) will face Notre Dame, who defeated Merrol Hyde of Hendersonville 4-0 in the Region 4 final, in a Class A/AA sectional match next week. Hixson's boys don't know their opponent yet, as Signal Mountain and Central Magnet don't play their match until this afternoon in Murfreesboro.
The Wildcats (10-3), who defeated the Bucs 8-1 in the regular season, swept singles Thursday with wins from Alex Condra, Richard Vuong, Carl Phillips, Kevin Nguyen and Rivers De'Friese, with Vuong's win at No. 2 singles clinching the championship.
"I was nervous coming into this match. I literally had butterflies -- probably because I felt like we were supposed to win today," Fernandez said. "Take nothing away from Boyd-Buchanan -- I think they fought hard and they have a good bunch of kids -- but I'm happy for my bunch now. We have to get ready for the next step."
If that next step is against Signal, the Eagles claimed a 5-4 win over the Wildcats on March 21.
The Lady Bucs were just as solid in their win, as Makenna Thomas, Katie Delay, Christina Amos and Shelby Brown had singles victories. Paige Zumbrun was up a set and 6-5 in the second set when the match was called.
"I'm very proud of the girls. They really wanted this," Boyd-Buchanan coach Mikki Brown said. "They want to go to state; they've worked really hard, and I hope they can make this happen. They've put a lot of time and energy into it, and I'm so proud of them, because each year they get more hungry and want to go to state as a team."
Contact Gene Henley at email@example.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.