BE, Wando appear headed for state final again

The glory days for Bishop England’s girls tennis program appear to be in line to continue that legacy in the coming week. The Bishops have been the class of SCHSL AA tennis for the last four years, and that should continue for coach Kristin Fleming Arnold’s deep and talented team.

Old rival Waccamaw turned out to not even be a tough test for the Bishops in the lower state semifinals as the Bishops yielded just 12 games in singles in a 6-0 romp, and Monday’s 4 p.m. Lower State final at Aynor probably won’t be much different.

Aynor defeated Waccamaw twice to win Region 8-AA, then handled Barnwell in the first round of the playoffs on Thursday and received a forfeit win over Academic Magnet on Friday.

A likely state final next Saturday morning at Cayce Tennis Center against perennial power Christ Church could be the tough test for Bishop England (13-3). Last year’s state final went the limit before the Bishops turned back Christ Church, 4-3.

The Bishops’ depth is scheduled to get even deeper in the final week of the season. Fleming Arnold plans to insert junior standout Jenna Vroman, who hasn’t played thus far in the state playoffs due to an injury, back at the top of the lineup.

Wando’s visit to Hilton Head Island for Monday’s 4 p.m. Lower State Class AAAA final at Bluffton High doesn’t look much different than the Bishops’ lower state matchup.

Wando (23-1) made amends for its only loss with a 4-2 win over previously unbeaten Lexington in the lower state semifinals. Bluffton (15-4) lost at No. 2 singles and survived third-set tiebreakers at Nos. 3 and 4 singles to hold off Region 7-AAAA runner-up James Island in the semifinals. James Island suffered a pair of 6-0 losses to 7-AAAA champion Wando.

“We did beat James Island 6-0 twice, but the state final is far from a lock,” acknowledged first-year Wando coach Eric Praedel. “We need to stay focused. The match will all be played at Bluffton.”

Wando simply has too much talent and depth to be troubled by Bluffton, although the Bobcats could test Wando’s hard-hitting Lauren Quinn at No. 1 singles with slight, little unbeaten (19-0) freshman backboard Natalie Bassett.

Then, there’s the state final next Saturday morning at Cayce Tennis Center. Dutch Fork, which handed the Warriors a 5-4 loss in last year’s state final, already has been eliminated, leaving Boiling Springs and either T.L. Hanna or Spartanburg to battle it out on Monday to decide the upper state’s berth in the state final.

Everyone recognizes that Mike Baker is doing a great job as Charleston Southern’s women’s tennis coach. Summerville city tennis director Nancy Sumerset has nothing but praise for Baker and members of the Bucs’ Big South Conference championship team “for a phenomenal job on and off the court, leading fun drills, games with kids, adult and with Special Olympics” during a recent Friday Evening Fall Expo at Summerville’s excellent Doty Park tennis complex.

Seabrook Island’s 32nd annual Alan Fleming tennis tournament sparkled off the court last month by raising more than $40,000 to support Respite Care of Charleston, an organization dedicated to improving the lives of individuals and families coping with Alzheimer’s disease. Also, the tournament was a Category 1 USTA National Championship Gold Ball event for mixed doubles in the 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s age groups. More than 240 players participated in the tournament.

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The Smiling Seniors from the Mount Pleasant Recreation Department finished third in the recent 4.0 USTA national women’s 55 championships in Surprise, Ariz. The team went unbeaten in state and sectional tournaments, but after losing in the national semifinals bounced back to take the third-place match. The team members included captain Jane Fluet, and Emily Thomas, Vicki Zimpfer, Julie Raney, Becky Montgomery, Charlotte Gerber, Becky Williamson, Alice Wright, Betty Randolph, Meridy Kennington and Ruth Ennis

Holly Hill Academy is still celebrating its second straight SCISA Class A state championship. Senior No. 1 Kristi O’Connell wrapped up her high school career suffering only four losses the last four seasons. Coach Miriam Bessent’s Holly Hill team had been Class AA runner-up three times, but 2014 produced the team’s first state title.

The area has produced a number of boys high school players who are now playing college tennis. In addition to Palmetto Christian’s Austin Heinz at Stamford, some of the others include: Adam Elliget of Pinewood Prep/Summerville, JT Elliget of Summerville, Junior Duarte of Porter-Gaud/West Ashley and Dylan Sides of Stratford (all four at Spartanburg Methodist); Alex Amble of Cane Bay at Newberry; and Tommy McManus of Fort Dorchester at Belmont Abbey.

When USTA South Carolina holds its annual meeting at Wild Dunes a long list of local award recipients and organizations will be honored at a reception on Dec. 5: Diane Barker, adult female player of the year; Pine Forest Country Club’s Racquets for Recovery, adult tournament of the year; Bishop England’s Kristin Fleming Arnold, coach of the year; Family Circle Tennis Center’s Bryan Minton, pro of the year; Dion Straub of St. George, Junior Team Tennis volunteer of the year; LTP Tennis’ Emma Navarro, junior girls player of the year; Ashley Hall’s Rebecca Spratt, Mark Hodgin junior sportsmanship (girl); and Beau Wise of the Isle of Palms, official of the year.

Reach James Beck at jamesbecktennis@gmail.com. See his latest columns on Grand Slam tennis at ubitennis.com/english/

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