HERRIN — Saturday turned out to be a special day for the Carbondale High School girls tennis squad. The Terriers earned both a singles and doubles title and also laid claim to the Herrin Sectional team title with 24 points on this sunny, but windy day, beating out Benton, Marion and Herrin, who each tallied 16 points.
"Winning these matches today was icing on the cake for us," said Terriers head coach Mike Butler. "It is a nice thing to see after all the hard work the girls put in this season."
Butler offered a shoutout to assistant coach, Max Kuenneke.
"He took these girls under his wing and talked to them about having the will to win. He deserves a lot of the credit for their success this weekend. The girls showed better instincts at the net and hit lower and wider shots."
CCHS freshman sensation Skylar Moore captured the singles title, first coming from behind 5 games to 2 in the final set of her semifinal match with Taylor Moore of Benton to win that set, 7-5, and eventually the match (6-3, 2-6, 7-5). The match was the longest of the tournament, lasting 3 hours, 8 minutes.
After a 30-minute break, the youngster delivered a knockout punch to the rock-steady Margaux Bruce of Marion, winning in straight sets: 6-2, 6-1. Bruce had cruised to the finals with a 6-1, 6-1 victory over Herrin's Jaylan Blake.
"Winning this tournament means a lot to me," Skylar Moore said. "Both Taylor and Margaux are very good players and I was honored to be on the court with them. I was hitting the ball pretty well today and tried to keep a positive attitude, even when I fell behind against Taylor (semifinals). To be honest, I wasn't sure I could do it. But I learned from my mistakes and that helped me in the match (championship) with Margaux."
Butler said he felt his freshman deserved better than a No. 3 seed, but used that ranking as motivation throughout the tournament.
"I'm thrilled for Skylar. Now, she has to raise the bar by defending this title for the next three years. She's only 14, but her footwork is exceptional. She just needs to get stronger and faster, and I am confident she will."
Carbondale's doubles team of senior Shreya Patel and junior Jessie Harper pulled off perhaps the biggest upset of the day in the semifinals, knocking out the top-seeded Herrin duo of Kelby Weber and Bre Nesler, 6-3, 2-6, 7-5.
"It feels great," Harper said. "All the hard work we have put in this season was worth it. We wanted to get our revenge against Herrin after they beat us Monday, and we got it."
The Terriers tandem got the victory despite fending off multiple match points.
"We picked each other up at the right time," Harper said.
In the title match with the Rangerettes' Madison Kreiner and Adriana Tonn, Carbondale's Patel-Harper prevailed, 6-3, 2-6, 6-3.
Benton coach Alyssa Williams said she was proud of her team's performance despite the loss.
"Madison and Adriana had only played two matches together before the sectional. I just kind of threw them together at the last minute, but they played great together. I was extremely pleased."
Williams also doled out praise for Taylor Moore, who lost the heart-breaker to Skylar Moore in the semis before bouncing back to take the third-place match against Herrin's Blake, 6-3, 6-0.
"Taylor had already beaten Skylar twice during the regular season. It's hard to beat a good player like her three times in the same season."
All players who competed Saturday qualified for the state meet if there were one to be held. The Illinois High School Association ruled earlier this fall that there would be no state meet due to the coronavirus.
Get in the game with our Prep Sports Newsletter
Sent weekly directly to your inbox!