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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Baylor's Carolyn Reid stretches to return the ball in a singles match against GPS player Corinne Spann during the Chattanooga Rotary Tennis Tournament on April 6, 2018, at Baylor. Reid and fellow Baylor seniors Defne Bozeby, Anna Hawkins and Grace Mooney had hoped to end their prep tennis careers with a 10th straight team state championship, but the cancellation of the Spring Fling took away that opportunity.

The coronavirus pandemic has done what no other TSSAA Division II-AA girls' tennis program has been able to do for a decade.

Prevent Baylor from winning another state championship.

The Lady Red Raiders' four-player senior class won't be able to compete for what would have been the program's 10th consecutive title in what would have been the Spring Fling state championships this week in Murfreesboro.

"I don't think about the number," Baylor director of tennis Ned Caswell said Friday. "I just think that they're not going to get to play this year. Every year you're in a program as you get older, you get more valuable. Our top four returning players were all seniors; everything was about winning number 10.

"I keep telling the kids to not feel bad that they're upset, even though some people will tell you it's trivial in the grand scheme of things. It's important to them."

And it's not just the Baylor girls. On the boys' side, McCallie won't have a chance to repeat as Division II-AA state champions, either. Baylor's Hunter Smith won't have an opportunity to get his third consecutive doubles title. Signal Mountain's Gabe Williams won't get a chance to earn his second, having won the Division I Small Class crown in 2018.

Although the end result has been a title, it's not as though the Baylor girls' tennis program has just waltzed to victories.

In a sport in which no match is more important than the other, the Lady Red Raiders have lost the doubles point in each of the past two state championship matches, meaning they had to earn four wins in singles to clinch the team title. The past two titles and three of the nine straight have come by 4-2 margins.

Parts of the run have coincided with rival GPS — which won the 2010 title, its fourth in fifth years at the time — being on nearly equal footing, as six of the championship wins have come over the Bruisers (GPS has a combined five singles and doubles state titles to Baylor's eight over the past nine years).

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Staff photo by C.B. Schmelter / Anna Hawkins

This season's senior class of Lady Red Raiders — Defne Bozeby, Anna Hawkins, Grace Mooney and Carolyn Reid — won't get an opportunity to extend the streak and add to the program's overall haul of 13 TSSAA team state titles, with the first four coming in 1993, '96, '99 and 2000. Only Reid has decided to play in college, choosing to attend NCAA Division III program Sewanee. Hawkins and Mooney will attend Tennessee as students, while Bozeby is going to Georgia.

So the end came abruptly. But perspective is a good thing.

"I'll never look back at my career negatively," Hawkins said Friday. "Even though we didn't get a chance at state this year, we had so many accomplishments. It's crazy; we've won nine straight state titles. We did so much, we worked so hard. I've been a part of the varsity since eighth grade and just watching how hard all of the players put work in.

"These girls on the team are going to be my best friends for life, so it's not like I don't get the chance to talk to them. And the coaches have been really positive about the whole situation. I've definitely going to look back and miss it, but it's been such a great experience."

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.

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