General Amherst represented in SWOSSAA tennis

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General Amherst sent two teams to the SWOSSAA playoffs in tennis this year — Gillian and Trent Sparling in mixed doubles and Brittany Woods with Bailey Rigney in ladies doubles.

Starting with the girls, Brittany and  Bailey had a bit of a roller coaster day. The early morning travel to Sarnia left them a little groggy to start the tournament but Woods and Rigney hit their stride in the second match , using their consistency and variety  to grind out an 8-5 win. Woods and Rigney did well in reaching the semi-finals. They weren’t able to pull out a victory in that match but their steady improvement and upwards trajectory of results bodes very well for next year as they will finally be among the more experienced of teams.

Gillian and Trent had a crazy day that could very well have ended prematurely but in the end did anything but. The Sparlings had their worst match of any so far first, unable to execute at all in getting smoked by the Chatham #1 team, 8-2.  In the second match against Sarnia #2, it seemed as though Gillian and Trent had shaken off the early morning travel rust and were able to let their games flourish .
Sarnia St. Patrick was able to stay close however as both sides held serves until 4-3, where the Bulldogs finally broke serve.  Looking to cruise to victory at 7-4, St. Pat’s dug in and Gillian and Trent relaxed a bit too much, finding themselves forced into a tense tie-breaker. St. Pat’s looked to be cruising to victory as they jumped ahead 5-1, but the Sparlings staved off four match points against them, showing their steel in the pressure points to prevail 10-8 in the breaker.

The adversity of the second match, one they had to win to stay alive, provided the incentive to ratchet their games up and fight to the end. They next faced the always tough Kingsville team and appeared to find their groove in dispatching their most challenging opponent thus far, 8-4.

Revenge and redemption loomed on the horizon as Gillian and Trent found themselves in a rematch against the Chatham John McGregor team whom they bowed to 8-1 in the early morning mist. McGregor was in for an eye-opener however as the Sparlings level was far above what they showed earlier. It was a back and forth affair but McGregor got a crucial break of serve at 6-5 to go up by two and thus serve for the match.

True to form, when the moments got tense, Gillian and Trent rose to the top and dug in to pull out the next two pressure-packed games and force a tie-breaker. Their “refuse to lose” spirit was in full effect as the tie-breaker was uncharacteristically smooth as they sailed to an 8-1 breaker win and their second 8-7 triumph of the day.

In a long, physically and emotionally exhausting day, the Sparlings had battled from behind in every match and found a way to get to the OFSSAA qualification match. They had to face the WECSSAA champs from Belle River who had played one less match so far to get to that point. The Nobles were firing on all cylinders and caught the Bulldogs a little weary in jumping to 3-0 and 5-2 leads. Gillian and Trent dug their heels in again and fought hard to raise their level in tying the match up at 5-5.  With a little luck, General Amherst may have broken to go ahead 6-5 but some close calls went the other way and although they continued to fight to the end, the extra match played (five compared to Belle River’s four) may have proved the difference as  the Nobles held on to an 8-6 victory.

“Gillian and Trent showed a lot of character in the ways they were able to  raise their levels of play during the pressure moments, when many players get nervous and can’t execute.  It’s tough to finish #3 and just miss out on OFSSAA, but Gillian and Trent should be proud of their compete level and definitely get the attention of other coaches and teams with how they pull out victories.  Next year could be the one,” coach Nancy Loeffler-Caro reflected.

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