St. Al’s Chewning, Jarratt have state title slip through their fingers

Published 9:00 am Thursday, May 12, 2016

RIDGELAND — Taylor Chewning walked to the corner of the tennis court, took the ball in her hand, and called out the score.

“Advantage,” she said, her voice cracking with nervous energy at the thought of the state championship that was one point away.

A moment later, she went to the opposite side and called out, with less enthusiasm, “Deuce.”

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The St. Aloysius seventh-grader repeated the process three times. By the last one, her nervous excitement had been replaced with a different kind of nervousness and not long after that her dejection had grown considerably larger.

Cathedral’s Marty Lewis and Emma Hogue fought off three match points midway through the third set to start an epic comeback against Chewning and her partner Ashley Jarratt in the MAIS Class AAA No. 2 girls doubles championship match Wednesday at the Ridgeland Tennis Center.

Lewis and Hogue won the last five games of the final set and their first state title 7-5, 5-7, 7-5 to stun the team from St. Al.

“They just started playing better and we hit it into the net. They just started focusing more,” Chewning said. “We let it get to us, and they just came back.”

The loss was a bitter ending to an otherwise remarkable season for Chewning and Jarratt. Before Wednesday, the two seventh-graders had won all 15 of their matches this season.

That success, and the recognition that there’s a lot of time to regroup and learn from this loss, helped cushion the blow — but only a little bit.

“We’re only seventh-graders. We can learn from it. We had a 15-1 record and that’s pretty good for seventh-graders,” Chewning said.

Chewning and Jarratt beat Laurel Christian’s Tirzah Ginn and Claire Douglas 6-1, 6-1 in a semifinal earlier Wednesday afternoon, while Lewis and Hogue had to gut out another grueling three-setter to reach the final. The Cathedral duo beat Manchester Academy’s Mary Sibley McGraw and Nettie Barbour 4-6, 6-4, 6-4.

In all, Lewis and Hogue spent nearly six hours on the court Wednesday. The final lasted almost 2 1/2 hours, about 90 minutes after all of the other matches in six other divisions had concluded.

Lewis and Hogue won a tough first set from Chewning and Jarratt in the championship match, and then won three consecutive games in the second set to rally for a 5-5 tie before losing 7-5.

That set up the dramatic third set, when a state championship was in and then slipped out of St. Al’s fingers.

Chewning and Jarratt won three consecutive games to go up 5-2. Cathedral dominated the next game, but in the ninth game of the set St. Al served for the match three separate times. Each time, the Cathedral duo either hit a perfect shot or the St. Al duo an imperfect one to keep it alive. Cathedral finally pulled it out, and then went on a roll.

Lewis hit a forehand winner down the line for the final point of the next game to tie things up at 5.

“Our coaches told us to just stay calm and play our game, and I guess that’s what we did,” Hogue said.

Jarratt hit a long return in the next game to give Cathedral a break point and the chance to close it out, and it did just that.

On match point, Jarratt hit a crosscourt shot long, capping the comeback for Lewis and Hogue. The Cathedral duo hugged each other at midcourt and shook hands with Chewning and Jarratt, who then quietly marched back to the clubhouse.

“We just had them so many times,” Chewning said through tears. “It sucks. Honestly, it sucks.”

About Ernest Bowker

Ernest Bowker is The Vicksburg Post's sports editor. He has been a member of The Vicksburg Post's sports staff since 1998, making him one of the longest-tenured reporters in the paper's 140-year history. The New Jersey native is a graduate of LSU. In his career, he has won more than 50 awards from the Mississippi Press Association and Associated Press for his coverage of local sports in Vicksburg.

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