The Stone Memorial girls’ record-breaking tennis season came to a close last week when the Lady Panthers dropped a 0-4 decision to McMinn County Thursday in the Class AA Team Substate Championship in Athens, TN. 

“McMinn County is a pretty strong team,” said Stone coach Dylan Nelson. “I think in terms in preparedness, we were ready for the match. I think it was more about how it just wasn’t our day. 

“I think McMinn grinded a little more than we did, and I think they played the big points better than we did. I don’t think it was a blowout. The team score indicates it was, but I think all the matches were pretty competitive. I was very proud of the way we competed.” 

Rachel Houston opened the match at No. 1 singles for Stone Memorial with Carrie Houston at No.2 and Isabelle Aikens at No. 3. Tina Tung played at No. 4 with Sydney Rally representing Stone Memorial in the fifth position. 

Rachel Houston’s match was not completed because McMinn County reached four wins before the last point.

Carrie Houston lost 5-7, 0-6, and Aikens was defeated 1-6, 1-6. Tung’s match was close, but she lost 4-6, 3-6, and Rally lost 4-6, 1-6. 

“The first set for Carrie was crucial because it seemed she was struggling both physically and emotionally,” Nelson said. “However, to be in that position and to give herself an opportunity to win the set against arguably a really good player, you can’t be disappointed with that.” 

“Isabelle had a ton of deuce points. Her opponent was solid and she didn’t miss a lot. When you’re a player like Isabelle who likes to hit the ball bigger, that can tend to be frustrating when you anticipate the point to be over only to have the ball come back.” 

Nelson said Tung’s first set was extremely close and, because Tung has always been a grinder for Stone, he wasn’t too shocked the match would probably have to go to a third set. 

He was also impressed with the way Rally played her match, saying it was probably some of the best tennis she has played all year. 

“We kind of huddled up at the end after the match,” Nelson said. “I told them the result was not what we wanted but to look at everything in the big picture. We accomplished the goals we set out to accomplish and then some.

“I think we actually surpassed what we sat out to do in winning the district and the region. I think we were definitely a surprise to everyone because of our result, not because of our ability.” 

Nelson said he is even a little taken back by how good this Stone team is. 

“It is pretty awesome to look back at the season,” Nelson said.

“We’ve had some good individual players at Stone in the past, but as a unit and as a team, we’ve never had this type of season performance.” 

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