Senior boy’s number one singles player Nathanell Killough was dominating in his 8-0 win over Southside Gadsden’s Chandler Tankersley. Tankersley struggled in returning Killough’s powerful serves.
Killough and his brother, Will Killough, also a senior, have both played tennis since the seventh grade, but is still hoping to finish the year strong.
“I’d like to win sections,” Nathanell Killough said. “I think I can beat the two kids that I loss to in section this year. That’s Boaz and Cullman. I should be able to pull out those in section, hopefully.”
His brother Will won his match against Mason Sprinkle 8-0. Will Killough said he will remember all the victorious matches when his high school career is over.
“Of course, I want to remember all the ones that I won,” Will Killough said. “If you lose something, you just forget about it and move on. I’m not sure if I’m going to play tennis in college. I would like to, but I don’t think that’s going to happen. But it’s been fun overall playing high school tennis for four years.”
Senior Kody Woods has missed most of this season due to requiring surgery. He is hoping to get a doctor’s clearance to come back and play this season. Still, his playing career has been memorable thus far.
“Last season, I played seed six and got the most improved award,” Woods said. “When I look back on tennis, the biggest thing I’m going to remember is state last year. We just had a blast. We had to stay overnight and had fun.”
The lone female senior, Madge Ellis, won her match against Lexi Pierce 8-2. There were a number of back and forth exchanges, and every time, Ellis seemed to find the right answer, whether through a soft return that Pierce couldn’t get to or through a strong backhand either unreturned or returned out of bounds.
“We’ve had a really good season so far,” Ellis said prior to the match against Southside Gadsden. “Overall, the girls are 6-3 and my record is 6-1. I’ve only lost one match, so I’ve been doing pretty well. I was dealing with tennis elbow in the middle of the season and finally got over that and I’ve just now been able to come back and play.”
As the lone senior, she’s keenly aware of her responsibility to show leadership.
“Being the senior, you’re the one all the young girls, especially on JV, look up to,” she said. “So, you have to make sure that you go out there and you demonstrate excellent sportsmanship and you’re always kind to your opponents and make sure you represent how a Lady Aggie should act.”
Sylacauga head coach Cindy Cleveland touched on each of her seniors.
“The brothers, they have a special place in my heart because they started in seventh grade with me,” Cleveland said. “You always have those players that you see mature and grow, especially when you’ve had them like that every year. So, it’s just been really neat to see them go from a middle school beginner to where they are now and they’re my one and two, which goes to show they have put time in. They do take it serious. They’ve done a great job and really stepped up to the plate this year as senior role models. We talked at the beginning of the year and they knew being a senior comes with some other things too. You’ve got new kids coming up and they’re watching everything you do, whether you think they are or not and they’re listening. So, they’ve really stepped up to the plate for me to be that role model and encourager.”
Cleveland cited the difference in doubles play this year for the Killough brothers. In past years, they have played doubles together. However, this year after much debate, they were split and were paired with younger players. Nathanell has been paired with ninth grader Andrew Farr and has served as a mentor in many respects. The two won their match against Mason Sprinkle and Tanner Humphrey 8-3. Likewise, Will Killough has served as a mentor to junior Collin Minor. The pair won their match 8-0 against Chandler Tankersley and Bryce.
“My other senior boy, Kody: he’s very consistent,” Cleveland said of Woods. “He was just singles last year and he won most of the season. He just gets the ball back in play. This year, he went out with a little injury. So, we lost him for a lot of the season so that’s kind of hurt us. Luckily, we have extra guys, so it doesn’t hurt us as a whole too bad. I only have one senior girl, Madge. Again, it hurts losing them every year. The thing with the tennis team that I love so much and the reason I continue to want to do it is I have great, great kids and great parent support. I love it because of the players. They make it fun for me, and easy.”
In other boy’s singles matches, third seed Collin Minor defeated Bryce 8-0; fourth seed Andrew Farr beat Tanner Humphrey 8-2; fifth seed Tripp Hodges beat Rayce Hill 8-1; and sixth seed Paul Markert beat Louis Vazquez 8-1.
In the other boy’s doubles match, Tripp Hodges and Paul Markert beat Rayce Hill and Louis Vazquez 8-0.
In girl’s singles matches, top seed Hayden Stewart beat Allyssa Herrera 8-1; second seed Brandy Comer beat Hannah Lester 8-1; Nicole Compher beat Allison Sims 8-0; fifth seed Vyshi Rallapalle beat Brittany Barker 8-0; and sixth seed Anna Tankersley beat Lacy Downey 8-1.
In girl’s doubles matches, Stewart and Comer beat Herrera and Sims 8-1; Compher and Ellis beat Lester and Pierce 8-0; and Rallapalle and Catherine McConatha beat Downey and Hannah Lorinez 8-0.
With the win, the girl’s team improved to 7-3 and the boy’s team improved to 6-3.
“Our goal would be to either win sectional, which will still can,” Cleveland said. “I’m not counting us out. Our score to Cullman was 0-9, but to watch our team play you wouldn’t have realized that the score would be that big. We had some excellent matches. My seventh grader went to a tiebreak with them. We lost another one by two games. In the big score, you can’t always tell. They played great, so we could still do it at sectionals. But to be runner-up at least would be great.”