Decatur doubles the difference
E. Suggs, Sherrill help Lady Raiders lead sectional before rain
By Mark Edwards
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MUSCLE SHOALS — If Decatur High's girls tennis team wins its third sectional championship in five years, it can point to a Wednesday evening doubles match as one of the keys.
Decatur sophomores Emily Suggs and Mary Virginia Sherrill entered the Class 5A, Section 6 championships at Muscle Shoals High as the third-seeded tandem at No. 2 doubles. However, they won a semifinal match Tuesday afternoon and then upset the top-seeded duo of Lexie Reames and Rebecca Brocato from Muscle Shoals 7-5, 4-6, 7-6 (4) in the finals.
Suggs and Sherrill had lost to Reames and Brocato in both of their previous meetings this year.
"Emily and I have come a long way," Sherrill said. "We went from No. 3 to winning."
However, Decatur didn't find out Wednesday if it won the team championship. Rain interrupted play twice during the day. The second shower came at about 8:15 p.m., which forced organizers to call off play for the rest of the day.
Before the rain, all doubles play had finished, but the six singles finals were incomplete. Decatur and Muscle Shoals players advanced to the finals in all six singles divisions and all three in doubles.
After a round of discussion by the Decatur and Muscle Shoals coaches to find a way to keep the players from missing as little school as possible, they decided to return Thursday at 5 p.m. to finish.
However, rain is in the forecast, and if the wet weather comes as anticipated, the sectional will be completed Friday at 1 p.m.
No matter which team wins, both will advance to the state tournament. The top two go, and Decatur and Muscle Shoals have clinched first and second. Lee-Huntsville, Athens and Russellville couldn't crack the top two in any singles or doubles division.
Decatur holds a lead after winning two doubles finals to one for Muscle Shoals.
In addition to the win by Emily Suggs and Sherrill, Decatur's Sarah Suggs and Burgoyne Fite won at No. 3 doubles over Teri Barnett and Lindsey Little 6-3, 6-4. At No. 1 doubles, the Lady Red Raiders' Angee Stevens and Sarah Hodges lost to Muscle Shoals' Rebecca Hall and Audrey Bedford 6-4, 6-3.
But the match of the day happened in the No. 2 doubles final, which was decided in a third-set tiebreaker in which Reames and Brocato fought off three match points before Sherrill and Emily Suggs put it away.
"Mary Virginia and Emily have struggled a little bit this year," Decatur coach Morgan Coulter said. "We've tried a bunch of different strategies, but tonight, everything clicked.
"Sometimes this year when they've lost a set, they've gotten down. But when they lost the second set tonight, they were right there for the third set. I'm very proud of them."
As it happened, a break in the schedule allowed almost all of the Decatur players and their parents to watch the third set.
At times, Coulter paced. Sarah Suggs jumped and danced to get rid of nervous energy as she watched her sister, Emily. Stevens, a senior, shouted encouragement after every point. By the tiebreaker, Stevens' teammates and the players' parents had joined her in cheering loudly.
"We heard them," Emily Suggs said with a smile, adding that the support gave her and Sherrill a boost.
Sherrill and Emily Suggs trailed 5-4 in the final set before winning two games. Then after losing the next game, they scored six of the first seven points in the tiebreaker.
"We've gotten used to playing with each other this year," Suggs said, "and we've learned to control our emotions."
Well, most of the time. After they won, Sherrill allowed herself one small show of emotion — she pumped her fist in celebration.
Playing in Russellville, the Red Raiders finished third.
Only the top two advance to the state tournament.
Russellville won the championship, while Muscle Shoals placed second.
However, three Decatur players managed to finish second in singles and two were runners-up in doubles.
Sophomore Jonathan Rogers placed second at No. 4 singles, while sophomore Graham Powell did the same at No. 5. Senior Blake Garrett was second in No. 6 singles.
At No. 3 doubles, Powell and Garrett placed second.
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