Highland News Leader

State tournament trip caps outstanding season for Highland girls tennis team

The Highland girls tennis came into the Class 1A state tournament with big hopes of doing well in both singles and doubles play.

Things did not go smoothly for the Lady Bulldogs, as they went a collective 5-8 in tournament match play as the rugged state field left HHS on the outside looking in terms of the team standings.

“At state, we did kind of had some tough draws for the first round and we basically drew three seeded players, so that made it tough for us,” Highland coach Matt Pellock said.

At No. 1 singles, Kate Feldmann lost a pair of tough matches to Emilee Mossman of Effingham St. Anthony and Julia Turek of Wheaton St. Francis.

In No. 2 singles, Taylor Fleming lost to Sanskriti Sarav of Chicago University in the first round before winning three straight matches in the consolation round to finish in the top 17 to 24 players and earn all-state recognition.

“I think for Taylor, even though that first match was tough, it opened up a little bit of an opening for her that she could get a couple of good wins still on that first day and she made it the farthest,” Pellock said.

Fleming beat Valeria Pozo of Springfield Sacred Heart-Griffin (6-2, 6-2), Alli Schellenberg of Washington (6-5, 6-1), and Rachel Thomas of Charleston (6-3, 6-1) before falling in the fourth round of the consolation bracket to Jacelyn Street of Newton.

Ashlen Deluca and Nicole Knackstedt also had some success at the No. 1 doubles spot, as they went 2-2 in their matches.

Deluca and Knackstedt defeated Grace Dabb and Emily Williams of Waterloo (6-2, 6-0) and Claire Moore and Abigail Ley of Quincy Notre Dame (7-5, 6-4) for their two wins.

A week prior to the state tournament, the Lady Bulldogs won their third straight Class 1A sectional championship at Centralia finishing ahead of Flora and Centralia with 32 points. HHS finished 13 points ahead of Flora and 16 ahead of Centralia to win the sectional title.

“I think we counted on our top senior groups to perform and we felt like we were seeded well to win so we just had to make sure we showed up to play. And we had some even better results than we expected,” Pellock said. “We’ve won three consecutive sectionals now and we just missed having a perfect score in this one.”

Looking back at the season, Pellock said he felt like his group had an outstanding season that will go down in program history as one of the best in recent memory.

“It was really one of the best seasons we’ve had ... from winning the conference to winning the sectional and winning both the singles and doubles championships, it was definitely one of the most special times for the team,” Pellock said.