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Group AAA Tennis: Bears nearly exceed their season’s quest





Riverbend’s girls tennis team already had the school’s first Northwest Region title in hand—that was the goal this season, and they accomplished it.

But oh, they came so close to having so much more.

The Bears (22–1) suffered their first loss of the season Tuesday, falling 5–3 to Cox in the Group AAA team tournament quarterfinals.

The match was tied 3–3 after singles play, but the Falcons clinched it with a pair of close wins in doubles.

“It was a really good year,” said Riverbend No. 1 Taylor Nichols. “Having your first loss at states—it’s OK. We played well the whole year and it was so much fun. It’s a good way to end your senior year.”

The Bears knew little about Cox before Tuesday’s home match began.

Riverbend coach Cindy Edwards had done a little research and new the Falcons were strong at No. 1 and 2. It didn’t take long for her to figure out her team belonged here in the state tournament, too.

The Bears were competitive in all six singles spots. Nichols and No. 4 Halley Edwards split the first two sets in their matches before losing in the third.

And No. 2 Julia Klaczynski, No. 5 Kara Perusse and No. 6 Jessie Walthall each won in straight sets to even the match heading into doubles play.

Perusse and Walthall were especially impressive, keeping it all-square with two dominating wins.

“I was really proud of them,” Nichols said. “They have worked so hard and they’ve gotten so much better this year.”

The doubles were close, too, even though the Falcons won the two clinchers in straight sets.

Nichols and Klaczynski lost 6–2 in the first set, and forced an 8–6 tiebreaker in the second against Cox’s top two players.

Edwards and Katherine Johnson won their first doubles set, 6–2, and had a 5–3 lead in the second set—a win that could have tied the team match.

The state semifinal berth was decided at No. 3 doubles.

Perusse and Walthall dropped the first set, 6–4.

They were down, 4–3, in the second, perilously close to giving up the deciding team point.

But the two rallied, holding serve twice and getting a break against Cox’s Chandler Holt and Marleigh West to take a 6–5 lead.

The Riverbend pair could not get another service break to win the set, and Cox sealed the win by pulling away, 7–4, in the tiebreaker.

“The girls took it as far as they could,” Cindy Edwards said. “I’m thrilled we took it even this far.

“What a great group of girls. Their goal was to get that regional trophy, and we did that. So this is all gravy.”

    Singles: Kaitlyn Brogan (FC) d. Taylor Nichols 6–4, 2–6, 6–2; Julia Klaczynski (Rb) d. Alexandria McNulty 6–2, 6–3; Paige Barry (FC) d. Katherine Johnson 6–3, 7–6 (8–6); Jaclyn Lee (FC) d. Halley Edwards 7–5, 2–6, 6–3; Kara Perusse (Rb) d. Chandler Holt 6–1, 6–1; Jessie Walthall (Rb) d. Marleigh West 6–4, 6–1.

    Doubles: Brogan–McNulty (FC) d. Nichols–Klaczynski 6–2, 7–6 (8–6); Holt–West (FC) d. Perusse–Walthall 6–4, 7–6 (7–4).

Justin Rice: 540/368-5045

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