Pep talk turns joke into 1A state title|[5/11/05]

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, May 11, 2005

JACKSON – On the trip to Jackson for Tuesday’s Class 1A tennis tournament, St. Aloysius coach Leonard Banks talked to his players about making history.

Jeremy White and Bonney Neill turned the pep talk into a running joke for the day, and then a reality.

White and Neill crushed Cathedral’s Will Carter and Mattie Smith 6-2, 6-1, to win the Class 1A mixed doubles state championship at Parham Bridges Tennis Center. The St. Al tandem didn’t lose a set and dropped only five games en route to the title.

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In the semifinals, White and Neill defeated French Camp’s Rose Turner and Ashley Key 6-0, 6-2.

Throughout the final, friends and family constantly called on White and Neill to make history by winning – so much so that each mention of the pep talk was accompanied by laughter by the end of the match.

“Coach (Banks) was giving us our pep talk on the way over, telling us we had one chance to make history,” said White, a junior. “We kind of made a joke out of it, saying we were coming out to make history.”

In a way, Neill did make some history of her own. The state title was the sophomore’s second in as many years. She was on the winning girls’ doubles team in 2004.

“Maybe I’ll get three,” she said with a laugh.

St. Al easily won the first set, then seemingly put the match away by winning a marathon game midway through the second. The two doubles teams traded deuce points nearly a dozen times before Neill finally pounded a winner down the middle of the court to put St. Al ahead 3-1.

Cathedral never recovered.

Two games later, Neill served four straight aces and St. Al won the last four games of the set to finish the rout.

“It’s always demoralizing for somebody to lose a long game like that,” White said of the pivotal game. “We were just happy to get it over with.”

The rest of Warren County’s contingent wasn’t as fortunate as White and Neill on Tuesday.

St. Al’s boys’ doubles team of Hardy Farris and Chris Guizerix lost 6-4, 6-3 in the semifinals to Greenville-St. Joe’s Joseph DeAngelo and Chester Cascio, while the girls’ doubles team of Ellen Wakeley and Alex Cowart also fell in the semis.

Vicksburg High’s Jordan Henry also fell in the Class 5A boys’ singles semifinals. Northwest Rankin’s Chas Dunn controlled their match from beginning to end and routed Henry 6-2, 6-2.

“Every single shot, every single point, I was fighting hard just to get a game,” said Henry, who reached the finals last year.