History has repeated itself in SCISA Class AAA girls tennis. Ashley Hall is the state champion again.
Saturday's Ashley Hall success at Sumter's Palmetto Tennis Center against Darlington's Trinity-Byrnes Academy came in similar fashion to a year ago when Ashley Hall defeated another previously unbeaten Trinity-Byrnes team in the 2018 state final after losing to the Titans in a regular-season tournament.
Even the rain again came just before the end of Saturday's final. Only this time, the Panthers (16-4) were able to finish off Trinity-Byrnes 5-4 without having to wait a day to complete the task.
Saturday must have been Ashley Hall's lucky day in that SCISA moved up the starting time for the final from 10 to 8 a.m. due to the forecast for rain.
This one was the sixth state title in the last 13 years and third in four years for coach Mary Gastley's Ashley Hall team. Of course, Gastley's teams have won many more state titles in her 33 years as the Panthers' tennis coach.
"This match today was one of my sweetest wins," Gastley said.
The title match came down to doubles, just as it had a year ago, and no one coaches or puts more emphasis on doubles than Gastley, a former collegiate standout at the College of Charleston.
"I felt good going into doubles. Doubles have paid off a lot for me over the years," Gastley said. "And the girls embrace it. They stepped it up in doubles.
"That's what is so good about this team. They understand the dynamics and what they need to do."
Sophomore Meggie Navarro, junior Marissa Dye and sophomore Jane Goldstein won at Nos. 1, 4 and 6 singles, respectively, to stake the Panthers to a 3-3 deadlock in singles, sending the match into doubles.
The match was still tied at 4 after Trinity won No. 1 doubles, while Navarro and junior Ella Gray Settle took No. 2 doubles for the Panthers just before the rain came. Actually, it was sprinkles, and Ashley Hall's Dye and Adlelaide Harper were two points from a title-clinching victory at No. 3 doubles when the rain drops started falling.
"It was 30-0 and it was drizzling ... and they closed it out," Gastley said about Dye and Harper taking a 6-1, 6-3 victory over Trinity's Haley Davis and Claire Peebles.
A year earlier against Trinity in the final, Ashley Hall was one point from victory when the rain came, necessitating a return to Sumter the next day to play one point.
Navarro and Dye played critical roles in the latest victory by posting singles and doubles victories, but Goldstein's 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 6 singles over Peebles was equally important and impressive, considering that Peebles had posted a 6-0, 6-0 victory a day earlier against Porter-Gaud, while Goldstein was suffering a one-sided loss against Cardinal Newman in the semifinals.
Playing in her first state final, Randy Pate Tennis Academy standout Navarro lived up to expectations by posting a 6-1, 6-1 win over Trinity standout freshman McKenzie Davis at the top of the lineup.
"Meggie is a dynamic player," Gastley said about her unbeaten No. 1 player who didn't play in a 4-1 Ashley Hall loss to Trinity earlier this season in a Florence high school tournament.
ASHLEY HALL 5, TRINITY-BYRNES 4
SINGLES: Meggie Navarro (AH) def. McKenzie Davis, 6-1, 6-1; Allie Murrell (TB) def. Kayla Kirkland, 6-2, 6-3; Hannah McKay (TB) def. Lorna Milani, 6-3, 6-4; Marissa Dye (AH) def. Haley Davis, 3-6, 7-5, 10-6; Maggie Murrell (TB) def. Ella Gray Settle, 7-6, 7-6; Jane Goldstein (AH) def. Claire Peebles, 6-1, 6-1.
DOUBLES: M. Davis/A. Murrell (TB) def. Kirkland/Milani, 6-2, 3-6, 11-9; Navarro/Settle (AH) def. McKay/M. Murrell, 6-3, 6-3; Dye/Adlelaide Harper (AH) def. H. Davis/Peebles, 6-1, 6-3.
Reach James Beck at firstname.lastname@example.org.