Daily photo illustration by Gary Lloyd|
Austin High tennis aces Meleana McCutcheon, left, and Alex Worley each won a sectional championship and advanced to the Class 6A state quarterfinals.
Bears' McCutcheon, Worley take home Decatur Daily's tennis player honors
By Mark Edwards
firstname.lastname@example.org · 340-2461
Austin High's Alex Worley put together a winning tennis season, and so did Meleana McCutcheon of the school's girls team.
Worley won the Class 6A, Section 8 championship at No. 1 singles, and so did McCutcheon.
At the 6A state tournament, Worley won a pair of matches at No. 1 singles before falling in the quarterfinals, and so did McCutcheon.
Now they share something else in common — Worley is The Decatur Daily's boys tennis player of the year, while McCutcheon has won the girls' honor.
This marks the first time since The Daily began awarding the titles in 1994 that Austin has swept both.
"This shows the community how good the high school program is at Austin," Worley said.
As the two top players at Austin, they try to follow each other's results. When the Black Bears play boys and girls matches at the same time at the same location, they try to watch each other play, but Worley joked, "When I get done with my match and try to find her, she's already finished."
When they both advanced to the state tournament in Mobile, McCutcheon spent some of her downtime watching her high school teammate.
"Getting to watch him while we were down there was awesome," she said.
A look at each player:
Worley began playing No. 1 singles for Austin two years ago as an eighth-grader.
He struggled at times and posted a 4-9 record. That improved to 9-5 last year as a freshman.
This year, he turned into one of the state's top players. He posted an 11-3 mark in singles. In addition, he and teammate Kyle Smith went 12-2 at No. 1 doubles.
He played his best tennis at the sectional championships when he won the No. 1 singles division. He beat Hazel Green's Jeremy Bone 6-2, 6-2, Huntsville's Clayton Simmons 3-6, 6-4, 6-3 and Grissom's Connor Rives 6-7, 6-2, 6-4.
That gave Austin its first boys sectional championship at No. 1 singles since 2000.
Worley said the past experience at No. 1 singles helped him this season.
"I had a chance to see what the competition is like," he said, "and it's good competition. There are a lot of really good players in this area."
Worley proved strong in three-set matches this season, especially at sectionals.
"I don't know how many three-set matches I had to play, but it seemed like a lot," he said. "I was just trying to dig deep and win the match."
At the state tournament, he had to play three matches on the first day. He won the first two, beating Manoj Jagani of Northridge 6-2, 7-6 (7-4) and Enterprise's Adam Hottell 6-1, 6-2.
Then came a rematch with Rives, who beat Worley 6-1, 6-1.
Even so, Worley said he benefited from the experience of the whole season, especially as he heads into the summer tournament schedule.
"High school tennis is really good for me," he said. "It's good preparation, and I probably wouldn't play as often without the high school season."
An eighth-grader at Cedar Ridge Middle School, McCutcheon began playing No. 1 singles for Austin last year.
This season, she was almost identical to her seventh-grade year. She went 13-1 in regular-season team matches after going 14-0 last year. She won both the Austin and Benjamin Russell tournaments for the second straight year.
She won her section for the second straight year. And for the second straight year, she reached the state quarterfinals.
"I tried to be a little bit better this year because I was going against some awesome people," she said. "I tried to learn to keep my focus and keep my cool. Sometimes I get aggravated, and I try not to do that."
In one case, maybe it helped her to get a little aggravated. Her lone regular-season loss came to Florence's Hannah Creamer, who beat her in the first match of the season. McCutcheon rallied to beat her in their second regular-season meeting and again in the sectional finals 6-1, 6-2.
"That loss made me realize that if I didn't play like I was supposed to, I wouldn't get to go to state and I wouldn't win sectionals," she said. "It kind of woke me up."
At state, McCutcheon had to play three matches on the first day, just as Worley did.
Despite recovering from strep throat and a sinus infection, she began the day with a 7-5, 6-2 win over Murphy's Teisha Mixon, who had eliminated McCutcheon in the quarterfinals the previous year.
Then after a 6-1, 6-2 win over Enterprise's Emily Galloway, she fell to McGill-Toolen's Morgan Carney 3-6, 6-0, 6-4. Carney finished runner-up.
"I thought I played well at the state tournament," McCutcheon said. "I was happy to get revenge for losing last year.
"In the third match when I played Morgan Carney, it was a really good match."
She added with a smile, "I hope I get to play her again so maybe I can get my revenge again."
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