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With sectional title, Highland girls tennis earns first trip to state tournament

Kate Feldmann (left) and Taylor Fleming (right) grip the Class 1A sectional trophy after Highland won the tournament Monday in Centralia. On the left of Feldmann is assistant coach Brenda Plocher and on the right of Fleming is Highland head coach Matt Pellock.
Kate Feldmann (left) and Taylor Fleming (right) grip the Class 1A sectional trophy after Highland won the tournament Monday in Centralia. On the left of Feldmann is assistant coach Brenda Plocher and on the right of Fleming is Highland head coach Matt Pellock. For the News Leader

After three days of bad weather, delayed schedules, and long matches, the Highland girls tennis team got a chance to relax and celebrate on Monday evening.

The third day at was a charm for the Bulldogs netters as Highland captured the Class 1A tennis sectional at Centralia High School. Highland bested Flora 27 to 20 to win the championship.

“We finally finished it today,” Highland coach Matt Pellock said. “Friday we couldn’t get any play (due to the rain), and Saturday they wanted to do the whole thing and we had some long matches and it got dark and the rain came so we weren’t able to get it do so we played the singles final and singles third place match over there.”

Junior Taylor Fleming led the way in singles, winning the championship. Fleming won her match in three sets, 6-3, 0-6, and 6-3. Fleming’s win earned her a singles berth in this weekend’s Class 1A state tournament.

On Saturday, the Bulldogs doubles team of Ashlen Deluca and Ashley Basden qualified for a state berth by virtue of their victory over Logan Kauble and Riley Doll of Olney.

“They were actually down a set at 0-3 of the first match of the tournament and came back,” Pellock said. “We kind had them playing at the baseline instead of at the net for doubles which is kind of out of the ordinary but they were just hitting over the other team the rest of the day. That’s kind of how they beat the Olney team.”

Madison Clarke and Brianna Helm also came up big on Saturday, winning their doubles match 6-0, 6-0 to the start the day.

“Madison Clarke and Brianna Helm won their first match, so that was big and that got us four points so it helped for going into the day, we kind of knew (then) we had enough points already,” Pellock said.

Junior Katie Feldmann also qualified in the singles division thanks to a victory over Olney. Feldmann’s match was one of the longest of the weekend that was played, lasting over three hours.

“It was an over-three hour singles match and one of the longest singles matches we’ve ever had,” Pellock said. “Just a lot of long points and she was actually down to match point at the end of the third set and just kind of held and hung on and won 7-5 in the third set.”

Pellock said the biggest challenge for the team was staying focused through all the distractions of the weekend with the weather and scheduling changes but the team never lost its edge.

“It was a cold day Saturday watching everything but it was all good,” Pellock said. They performed well.”

Next up is a trip to Arlington Heights on Thursday for the Class 1A state tournament. The Bulldogs will take four players to state looking to come away with some hardware. The tournament begins on Thursday at 9 a.m.

“We have three teams competing in different draws, so we feel like at least one of them will fall into a good spot hopefully,” Pellock said.

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