Warren Central earns milestone win in Class 6A tennis playoffs

Published 3:03 pm Friday, April 5, 2024

There are still a lot of steps Warren Central’s tennis program needs and wants to take to reach the top of the mountain, but the one it took Friday was a big one.

The Vikings swept all five doubles matches without losing a set as they beat South Panola 5-2 in the first round of the MHSAA Class 6A team playoffs at Halls Ferry Park. It was the program’s first postseason victory since 2019.

“We’re so young, but that’s off the table now. Being young is one thing, but really our problem was inexperience. Now we’ve got experience,” Warren Central coach Steve Summers said. “We played monsters in our regular season. (South Panola) was not a bad team right here. This is a jumping off point. This is the growing up point. The whole idea of, ‘We’re young,’ that’s the page we just turned. The page we’re on now is it’s our time.”

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Doubles has been Warren Central’s strength all season, and Friday was no exception.

The boys’ teams of Sam Harris and Brady Taylor, and Charles Harris and Duke Esparza, both won 6-0, 6-0 to get the ball rolling.

The No. 1 girls’ doubles team of Lilli Feibelman and Ellie Tennison beat Chloe Ucci and Olivia Cole 6-0, 6-1 for the third point. The No. 2 pairing of Laura Bailey and Amelia King then defeated Calli Grace Burkes and Isabel Marquey 6-1, 6-4 for the clinching point.

“We worked on not slamming it at the net. We just tapped it over in strategic places, like in the corners,” Feibelman said. “And then one of the girls’ serves had a lot of top spin so we just tapped it over instead of full-on swinging at it and it helped us with the returns.”

The Vikings’ final point came in mixed doubles. With their teammates pressed against the fence watching, Sydney Sullivan and Luke Bond finished off Elliot Gray and Maria Ansenello 6-2, 6-4.

South Panola won both singles points. Caston Kirkland beat Ivan Ozherelev 6-2, 6-2 in boys’ singles; and in girls’ singles Susie Putman beat WC’s Avery Hern 6-2, 6-2.

“Doubles is what we do. Not that the singles events aren’t important, but you’ve got to win four courts. Understanding our strength is in the doubles courts, that’s what we did,” Summers said.

Warren Central advanced to the second round of the Class 6A team playoffs to face either Saltillo or Callaway. The date and location of the match have not yet been set, but it will not be played before April 12.

Before that, the Vikings have another postseason event to play in. They’ll host the Region 2-6A individual tournament Monday at Halls Ferry Park, beginning at 9 a.m.

The MHSAA has both a team and individual postseason tournament. Warren Central’s Feibelman and Tennison, and Sullivan and Bond are the the No. 1 seeds in girls’ doubles and mixed doubles, respectively, and the top two finishers in each region advance to the state tournament.

The Class 6A individual state tournament — as well as Classes 4A and 7A — will be played at Halls Ferry Park April 22-24.

“We’re ready. We’ve played tough matches all year. This was a tough match today. I’m going to give them the weekend off because Monday we’re going to have to play three matches,” Summers said. “Obviously we want to qualify as many kids as we can. Especially with the state being here in Vicksburg, we want to really showcase what we’ve got. I think it’s going to be a fun day.”

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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