EAST BEND — Taylor Tickle didn’t start playing tennis until her sophomore year at North Surry High School. According to coach Maggie McKee, Tickle is a tremendous athlete who picked up the game fairly quickly, but still had room to grow.
On Wednesday, Tickle put an exclamation point on just how much she’s grown with a singles championship in the Western Piedmont Athletic Conference at Forbush. Tickle defeated Forbush’s Alisha Baity in the final 6-3, 6-0 to cap off an undefeated season in the conference.
“Seeing how far she’s come in these three years has just been incredible,” McKee said. “She’s an athlete who can get to almost any ball on the court, and if you can do that at this level, you’re going to be successful.”
The senior from North Surry has won nine consecutive matches and hasn’t dropped a set during the streak. Tickle defeated Surry Central’s Hope Hinson in the semifinal on Tuesday, 6-1, 6-3.
Hinson bounced back Wednesday to win third place at the tournament with a 6-3, 7-6 victory over Jenny Smith from South Stokes.
In the doubles portion of the tournament, Surry Central’s Mallory Wilmoth and Sommer Chilton advanced to the final, but couldn’t quite come away with the victory. Wilmoth and Chilton fought hard in three sets, but fell to South Stokes’ Taylor Evans and Jenny Glidewell 6-4, 3-6, 7-5.
It was a North Surry battle in the third-place doubles match, with the Greyhounds’ No. 2 seeded pairing of Emily Smith and Emily Harrison facing third-seeded Cassidy Willard and Cassie Barker. This abnormal situation put the Greyhounds’ coach in a sticky spot.
“I told them I didn’t mind coaching, as long as everything I said was to both of them,” McKee said.
The winner received a berth in the upcoming 2A regionals, and Coach McKee acknowledged how competitive of a match it was. In the end, Smith and Harrison emerged victorious in a 2-6, 7-6 (7-5), 7-6 (7-4) result.
“It was definitely nerve-wracking at first,” McKee said. “But as they continued to play, they showed how much they wanted it, and that they were really equally talented. It’s been great having a two seed and a three seed so equal this year.”
McKee believes this was the first time all year those two teams played three complete sets against one another. The four girls consistently competed in practices, but never to the same length as Wednesday, she said.
North Surry must get back into the team mindset in a hurry, as the Greyhounds will take on South Stokes today in a critical match to determine second place in the Western Piedmont.
The Sauras and Greyhounds each finished the season 7-3 in the conference, and the winner of tomorrow’s bout will clinch a spot in the dual-team state tournament. The match will be held at West Stokes High School.