Science Hill’s Nickels claims district tennis title | Sports | #sports | #elderly | #seniors
BRISTOL — Griffen Nickels is trying to make up for lost time.
Nickels, a senior at Science Hill, won the Large Schools District tennis championship Tuesday at the Ida Stone Jones Community Tennis Center. He beat Tennessee High’s Hagan Oakley 7-6 (7-4), 6-2 for the championship.
“Honestly, the nerves left me after I won the first set,” Nickels said. “It was tough, but Coach (Kelly) Lane prepared me for the match and I won.”
Nickels had qualified for the state tournament as a sophomore, but had the chance to return last year taken away when the season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic.
“It was tough last year,” he said. “We lost a key year, my junior year. I had a good look at state and I didn’t get to achieve it. Gotta do it this year.”
The next step toward that goal comes in next week’s Region 1 tournament, where he could face Oakley again. The two were co-players of the year in the district after splitting two matches during the regular season.
“We have regionals for the team coming up and we’re going to see how we do in that, and we have regionals individually and hopefully state,” Nickels said.
In the semifinals, Nickels beat Tennessee High’s Cole Gayewski and Oakley topped Science Hill’s Jackson Temple.
Science Hill’s doubles team of Daniel Haddadin and Om Patel took home the title, knocking off Tennessee High’s Caden Myers and Brandon Istfan 6-3, 7-5 in the championship match.
Dobyns-Bennett’s Willa Rogers rolled to the girls title with a pair of straight-set victories. Rogers, a senior headed to Liberty University, knocked off Science Hill’s Josi Reid 6-2. 6-0 in the final after beating another Science Hill player, Lexi Bryant, in the semifinals.
“That was the best I hoped for, so I was pleased,” Rogers said. “Josi played really solid, especially in the first set. She came out playing really well and caught me off guard.”
Rogers wasn’t really threatened in either match, but she stuck with her game plan.
“I just tried to stay consistent, stay in the point and not make too many unforced errors,” she said.
Several times during the match, Rogers turned her back on the court and faced the baseline fence for a few seconds.
“Sometimes I need to take a deep breath and clear my mind a little bit,” she said. “Silence is what I need for a second to get my heart rate down.”
In the girls doubles final, the Tennessee High duo of Keona Fielitz and Ellyson Kovacs topped Science Hill’s Allie Knox and Leah McBride 7-6 (7-3), 6-0 for the championship.
All finalists from Tuesday’s action advance to next week’s regional tournament, which will also be held in Bristol.