MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The moment eventually became too overwhelming for Arts & Sciences tennis coach Earl Finnell.
He stood proudly Wednesday after the Lady Patriots won the Division I Small Class team title over Summertown at the Spring Fling, clutching the championship trophy with a grip that can't be understated. In that moment, he was speaking not only as a coach, but also as a father who had just watched his daughter Sunshine execute a pivotal role in a 4-3 team victory by winning her No. 1 singles match in straight sets and pairing with Olivia Porterfield to roll in doubles.
He thanked everyone in the CSAS administration, from the principal to the athletic director to coaching sponsor Miriam Arnold, who had entrusted him with the task of coaching the team, he said. He thanked the team for entrusting him with their season while remembering the vision he had when taking over a couple of years prior.
And it was around that time the emotions came rushing out.
"This is something that I will remember for the rest of my life," Coach Finnell said. "This moment is like my daughter being born, like me being married to my wife (Andi) for 20 years, and I'm having this opportunity to coach this team where she (Sunshine) is playing. It's very unique and special to me, and it's great.
"I can't explain the words, but it's something that's priceless. It's one of those priceless moments that I will always cherish from here on out."
In that moment, there was nothing but elation. However, the immediate celebration had been delayed because there was some confusion in the deciding match about whether a Summertown shot was called out. Once the on-court official made the call, Sunshine and her teammates burst onto the court for the celebration, which was years coming.
The Lady Patriots had never reached the tournament as a team, according to TSSAA records, and getting the trophy when just three years ago the program wasn't nearly as competitive was a special feeling.
"We have a really strong team," Sunshine said. "We're all really good friends, and my dad really helps us and coaches us and pulled us together. We stayed focused and stayed positive, and it's really helped us getting to this point."
McCallie 4, Montgomery Bell Academy 0: The Blue Tornado moved into third place in TSSAA history with their 10th state title, winning their second consecutive Division II-AA championship in dominant fashion by beating the Big Red for the second time this season. Singles wins came from Charlie Griffin, Will Leathers and Colin Tuttle, and Tuttle teamed Andreas Sillaste and Charlie Park with Henry Imorde for victories to pick up the doubles point.
Knoxville Catholic girls 4, Baylor 2: The Lady Red Raiders' run of nine consecutive DII-AA state titles came to a close with their loss in the championship match. Claudia Finlay and Helen Guerry won in singles for Baylor, which played a lineup consisting of no seniors, two juniors, one sophomore, four freshmen and an eighth grader over the two-day tournament.
Merrol Hyde boys 4, Signal Mountain 0: The Eagles finished as runners-up for the third time, falling in the D-I Small Class final. They also finished second in 2017 and 2019.