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Madison boys, Hillcrest girls win 5A District 5-6 tennis

By JEFF PAPWORTH
Idaho State Journal

CHUBBUCK – Highland left the Osborn Tennis Complex on Thursday with 5A District 5-6 titles in boys doubles, mixed doubles and girls singles.

But the winners of those three events are the only Rams going to state, which meant they did not earn a team title, placing second in the boys and girls standings.

“I don’t even know how to say how I feel,” Highland coach Ron Osborn said. “Even though we played really well and got three of the five titles, we just didn’t rack up enough points along the way.”

Tim Jack placed second in singles to lead the Madison boys team to its third consecutive district title. Hillcrest, Bonneville and Rigby rounded out the top five.

“I thought we would have a good chance to be district champions because we’re pretty deep,” Bobcats coach Lary Duque said. “We have a lot of boys with a lot of experience.”

Hillcrest’s Olivia Warner and Taelor Anderson clinched a girls doubles district title to lead the Knights to a girls team title. Bonneville, Madison and Rigby placed third-fifth, respectively.

The state-bound teams and players begin the state tournament May 18-19 at either the Boise Racquet Club, Bishop Kelly High School or Borah High School.

Stoddard defends title, Ence earns first career state bid

On the opposite side of the net of Highland’s Chloe Stoddard, the tennis ball continually rains down like it was fired from artillery because of the her dedication to moonshot volleys.

Why stop?

The junior finished undefeated in district play, capped by a 6-0, 6-1 title win over Hillcrest’s Grace Ence in the 5A District 5-6 tournament Thursday at the Osborn Tennis Complex.

Stoddard’s high volleys force opponents to be patient, as it leads to extended play that often ends on an unforced error by the opposition. She began using what has become her best asset when she was 12 years old, with encouragement from her mother.

“It doesn’t require too much energy,” Stoddard said. “It’s a fun shot to hit. It’s a lot of top spin. You just feel it in your wrists. And not only that, it takes more time to get to the other side, so it gives me more time to set up. So it’s a good way to reset yourself.”

In combination with her go-to move is her pristine patience that allows her to survive long rallies. Indication of how far she is willing to go was her four-hour semifinal match that she won 2-6, 6-2, 6-1 over Hillcrest’s Marie Phelan.

“I was down for a second, but comebacks are my most favorite thing to do,” Stoddard said. “So I was just ready to refocus and throw her off her game and just start racking some points and win the match.”

At one point, Highland coach Ron Osborn said tennis players on the opposite court had to take an extended rest, waiting to get their balls back as Stoddard and Phelan took forever to determine a point.

Ence said she did not enjoy facing Stoddard’s style of play, calling it “boring.”

“My strategy was to hit the ball, instead of dragging it out for really long because I didn’t want to do that,” said Ence. “It’s tiring because normally people don’t do that.”

There was a lot more excitement for the senior in the semifinals, coming back from a 5-2 second-set deficit to close out a two-set win over Bonneville’s Sage Leishman earlier Thursday.

With the 6-3, 7-5 victory, Ence clinched her first state tournament appearance just before her prep career concludes.

“It’s awesome,” Ence said. “I’ve always worked for it. I’m glad it finally happened this year.”

Highland mixed doubles pair survives in title win over Bonneville

Highland mixed doubles partners Sabrina Wathne and Carter Fellows had a title performance not exactly immaculate, though as they pushed through, smiles creeped across their faces, high fives were commonplace and a victory followed.

“If we don’t have positivity, we’re not winning,” Wathne said. “That determines the whole match.”

The Rams’ mixed-doubles pair defeated Bonneville’s Nathan Clements and Maunayia Harrigfeld in the 5A District 5-6 mixed double championship match Thursday at the Osborn Tennis Complex. It was the longtime friends’ first conference title as a pair.

“It means a lot,” Fellows said. “In the high school, you’re always looking at the wall at people who have pictures up on the wall and the district champions are always up there.”

Fellows played the title match with highlight-reel plays, including acrobatic saves. While Wathne said his aggressive style has been a constant all season, so has her positive personality that was present in the title round, according to Fellows.

Wathne also brings state tournament experience, winning a girls doubles title two years ago during her sophomore season with her sister Ella. Fellows placed third in mixed doubles at state last year with Brittany Grigg.

Their experienced posed problems for their counterparts.

“We know they’re good, so we just decided to try our hardest and hope for the best,” Harrigfeld said. “They’re skill level is really good, and they get everything back.”

Bonneville juniors Clements and Harrigfeld will make it to the state tournament as a pair for the first time, but earning a state bid did not pose much of a challenge, collecting a pair of two-set wins to make it to the title round.

“We’re just good at building each other up and working together,” Harrigfeld said.

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