They were ‘Shook:’ Sophomore steps in for injured Hughes, helps Lady Zs advance to sectional final
BY VAL TSOUTSOURIS
Sports Editor, RTC
CULVER — Rochester girls tennis players Rily Holloway and Kaedra Shook had never been doubles partners in a match prior to Wednesday.
But in a sport that requires chemistry and communication, they found it in time to defeat their opponents from Knox in straight sets and help lead the Lady Zs to a 4-1 in a sectional semifinal at the Gable Tennis Center.
Due to rain, the matches were held indoors at Culver Academy’s indoor tennis facility.
In the other semifinal, Culver Academy defeated North Judson 4-1.
The Rochester-Culver Academy sectional final is scheduled to be played outdoors at 5:30 p.m. Thursday at Culver Academy.
Culver Academy has won the sectional the last three times it has been held after Rochester won back-to-back sectional titles in 2016-17.
Holloway and Shook prevailed 6-1, 6-0 over Jemina Rivero and Journey Weber at No. 1 doubles. Shook was filling for senior Emily Hughes, who will miss the sectional with a left foot injury, according to coach Jesse Atkinson.
Atkinson described Hughes’ injury as “not catastrophic.”
Per IHSAA rules, Atkinson was not allowed to move somebody up from No. 2 doubles to take Hughes’ spot. Rather, he had to pick from a list of alternates that he submitted to the IHSAA that he included with the original roster that included Hughes.
So he picked Shook, a sophomore, on Tuesday. The twosome were to able to forge a quick chemistry.
“I think we did pretty good actually,” Holloway said. “I know we were kind of nervous at first, but I think we got more comfortable after the first or second game pretty well.”
Shook acknowledged early nerves. She said she prefers to play closer to the baseline than the net.
Holloway said the two just “talked and laughed” and “figured things out.”
“It was a little nerve-wracking at first, but then it wasn’t too bad,” Shook said.
Rochester’s other three wins came in the singles matches, and they dropped just 10 games in the three matches total.
Kylie Houston routed Mallory McIntire 6-0, 6-0 at No. 1 singles, Ella McCarter topped Megan Timm 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, and Lillith Eaton handled Lauren Combs 6-2, 6-2 at No. 3 singles.
Knox’s only point came at No. 2 doubles, where Megan Bolen and Samantha McGrath knocked off Makenna Beall and Rylee Clevenger 6-3, 6-4.
Houston dictated points from the baseline by angling her groundstrokes and keeping McIntire on the run.
“She’s a girl who coming into the season, she has not played a lot of tennis, and she’s finding herself as the number one singles player on any team,” Atkinson said. “That’s sometimes tough, but that hasn’t kept her from coming every day to practice, coming to every match, looking to get better. She’s a kid who’s willing to grind it out and improve her skills, and she’s doing a great job.”
Eaton won her first career sectional singles match. She won the first five games of the match, had her serve broken and then finally served out the first set. Then she won the first five games of the second set before finally closing out the match on her third try.
“I think Lilli did a great job of handling some of that pressure,” Atkinson said. “There’s no way to describe her opponent’s play at times other than inspired. And she did a good job of handling that. It’s great to see a kid go out there build a lead and maintain a lead and especially close out sets and things like that. Because we’ve been on the other side of that coin before where we’ve had a hard time closing out sets, and she did a great job of taking care of business tonight.”
McCarter’s match featured the longest rallies and angled groundstrokes. Timm seemed to try to force the action while McCarter continued to keep the ball in play.
“Her opponent was extremely fundamentally sound,” Atrkinson said. “Did a great job, she had great groundstrokes. At the end of the day, Ella McCarter was just the more patient player, and I think that’s what pushed over the hump against that opponent.”
But while the singles have had a whole season to prepare, Holloway and Shook figured it out in 24 hours.
“Two very smart girls who even with not a ton of experience, they know where to put the ball,” Atkinson said. “As a coach, you’ve got to love to see that. At the end of the day, all that means is they’re learning,” Atkinson said.
Results: Rochester 4, Knox 1
Kylie Houston (RHS) def. Mallory McIntire (KNOX), 6-0, 6-0
Ella McCarter (RHS) def. Megan Timm (KNOX), 6-4, 6-2
Lillith Eaton (RHS) def. Lauren Combs (KNOX), 6-2, 6-2
Rily Holloway-Kaedra Shook (RHS) def. Jemina Romero-Journey Weber (KNOX), 6-1, 6-0
Megan Bolen-Samantha McGrath (KNOX) def. Makenna Beall-Rylee Clevenger (RHS), 6-3, 6-4
The Rochester girls tennis team defeated Knox 4-1 in a Culver Academy sectional semifinal at the Gable Tennis Center Wednesday. They will play Culver Academy in the sectional final at 5:30 p.m. Thursday.