Division II-AA finals all include local players

Division II-AA finals all include local players

May 23rd, 2014 by Gene Henley in Sports - Preps

MURFREESBORO, Tenn. - Marko Mandic finally put it all together - and at the most opportune time.

The Baylor School senior fought his way into the singles final of the Division II-AA state tennis tournament with a pair of wins Thursday. He will face 2012 state champion Walker Sims of Memphis University School in the championship match at 10 EDT this morning at the Old Fort complex.

GPS's Michelle Fleenor is in the girls' singles final. The girls' doubles final will be an all-Baylor affair with Samantha Caswell and McCall Morgan facing teammates Maggie Crumbliss and Drew Hawkins, while McCallie's Carter Eaves and Luke Orthner will face MUS's Michael Apple and Spencer Richey, the defending champs, in the boys' doubles final.

Mandic, who will go on to NCAA Division III school Ponomo-Pitzer in late summer, defeated MUS's Alec Carro and McCallie's Cody Gubin.

"At the beginning of the season I was struggling on my serves, so I've really been working on it the past couple of weeks and I fixed the problem, so now I'm comfortable playing my game without getting in trouble on an opponent's returns," Mandic said. "I'm excited to be playing tomorrow.

"I'm playing an opponent that I lost to in the team tournament [on Tuesday] and also early in the season. He's a great player. We play the same game and we're real strong off the baseline, so it should be a great match and a grind."

Fleenor, a 2013 state doubles champion who will play for William and Mary, was consistent in victories over two Baylor players, Ashton Jenne in the quarterfinals and Harper Caswell in the semis. Fleenor also advanced to the 2012 state singles final, losing to Samantha Caswell, and will face St. Benedict's Grace Summers for the 2014 title today.

"I had a couple of tough matches today. They are real awesome players, and it's nerve-racking any time you face Baylor -- especially Harper," Fleenor said. "I just stuck to my game plan and didn't let them get into the points like they wanted, and tried to stay headstrong and mix things up a little bit.

"I wanted to make sure I played my game and not someone else's."

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