News from the Tennessee Valley Sports

Austin's Smith, Worley heat up tennis sectional
Tough competition helps duo play their way into finals for singles, doubles

By Mark Edwards · 340-2461

Austin High's Alex Worley and Kyle Smith spend plenty of practice time getting beaten by adult tennis players.

But those workouts help them pass the beatings onto their high school competition, which they did thoroughly Friday in the Class 6A, Section 8 championships at Point Mallard.

Worley rolled into the finals at No. 1 singles, while Smith did the same at No. 2 singles. Together, they made the finals at No. 1 doubles.

The finals in all six singles divisions are set for Saturday at 9 a.m., followed by all three doubles finals. In the team competition, first-place Grissom and second-place Huntsville have clinched the top two spots, which receive state tournament berths. Austin sits in fourth place after one day of play but could finish as high as third.

The individual champions at No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles advance to the state tournament, too, which means Worley, a sophomore, and Smith, a junior, can extend their seasons.

Worley and Smith practice often against former Alabama-Huntsville player Nathan Smith and Decatur teaching professional Gordon Siek. They play doubles matches, and the two older players usually dominate.

"I think we've beaten them once," said Kyle Smith, who is Nathan Smith's brother.

Added Worley: "Playing against better competition like that helps our games and makes us much better."

Worley has compiled an 11-3 record during regular-season matches and won two more Friday, beating Hazel Green's Jeremy Bone 6-2, 6-2 and Huntsville's Clayton Simmons 3-6, 6-4, 6-3. Kyle Smith, who had a 12-2 regular-season record, beat Buckhorn's Korey Steakley 6-0, 6-0 and Florence's Tyler Creamer 6-1, 6-4.

In doubles, they went 12-2 in the regular season and followed up by beating Florence's Phil Claiborne and Drew Bullard 6-1, 6-2 and Bob Jones' Varun Sucapeani and Ian Dial 6-4, 6-1 on Friday.

The doubles match against the Bob Jones duo started slowly, with Worley and Smith trailing 4-1 early.

They said a brief meeting with their Austin coach, Debby Crowell, helped them turn the match.

"She settled us down," Smith said. "Then we started concentrating and stepped up our play after that."

Smith and Worley have played together as doubles partners for two years, and they said the experience helps in tough matches like that, too.

"We know how to read each other," Worley said. "We know each other's games. I know when to back off and let him take charge, and he knows when to back off and let me take charge."

Two other Austin players advanced to the semifinals in their singles divisions before losing.

Kyle Justice upset second-seeded Erik Shaughnessy of Huntsville 6-2, 7-5 in the No. 4 singles quarterfinals. In No. 5 singles, Austin's Taylor Collins scored a win over Buckhorn's Daniel Speak 6-3, 3-6, 6-3.

What: Alabama’s spring football game.

When: Saturday 1:05 p.m., Bryant-Denny Stadium in Tuscaloosa.

TV/radio: CSS is scheduled to show the game live, while AM-730, AM-770, AM-1400, FM-93.9 and FM-92.5 are part of the Crimson Tide Sports Network, which is scheduled to carry the game on radio.

Who to watch: Brian Motley. Position changes are one of the fun parts of spring practice, and Motley’s switch from offensive line to defensive tackle has provided huge dividends in Alabama’s two scrimmages. Motley had 11 tackles in the Tide’s first scrimmage April 6.

Linebackers Keith Saunders and Ezekial Knight. Both have shifted to outside linebacker as part of new coach Nick Saban’s 3-4 scheme. Saban did the same with the Dolphins’ Jason Taylor and turned him into last season’s NFL defensive player of the year.

Quarterback John Parker Wilson. He has been inconsistent this spring in the two scrimmages, completing 10 of 31 and 12 of 27 passes. Wilson says he is in better shape, and we keep hearing that he is improved. Saturday will be a good indicator.

Saban. His presence has provided quite a buzz heading into this year’s spring game. Longtime program insiders say they have never seen this type of hype around a practice. Either way, Saban will get his first unofficial victory at Alabama on Saturday.

- Josh Cooper

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