By Dave Ongie, News Editor
At the outset of the 2021 season, the Science Hill girls’ tennis team was determined to honor the 2020 team with a season to remember.
The Lady Hilltoppers went down to Murfreesboro and claimed the program’s first state tennis title since 2009 and the second in program history. Allie Knox and Leah McBride topped off the magical week by claiming the state doubles championship later in the week.
The 2020 team had state title dreams as well, but those dreams were dashed before they could come to fruition.
“Last year we left for spring break thinking we were going to have our first match the day we got back, and we didn’t,” said Science Hill coach Erin Williams. “The season was cancelled. We had three great seniors on the team that probably would have had championship hopes as well.”
As a result of the pandemic, seniors Shan Shan Liang, Allie Torbett and Hollie Shuler did not get to compete for a state title. So as the 2021 season started, the Lady Hilltoppers set out to make up for their lost season and play for their teammates who didn’t get the opportunity to make one last title run.
“It feels really good because last year we definitely had a chance,” Knox said. “Some of my best friends were on the team last year, so it feels good to sort of win for them too because they didn’t have a chance.”
Knox was supremely confident heading into the season because she believed Science Hill had a strong nucleus with Josi Reid and McBride joining her at the top of the lineup. “Going into it, I knew we definitely had a solid team because all three of us are interchangeable and play the same sort of game, so we knew it was going to be pretty solid,” Knox said.
With Lexi Bryant, Armita Kordamiri and Olivia Kneisley solidifying Science Hill’s lineup, the Lady Hilltoppers rolled into the state tournament in Murfreesboro with a lot of momentum. Liang and Torbett were able to make it to some matches along the way to cheer their former teammates on.
The journey to the team title culminated in a 4-1 win over Franklin in the championship match. Two days later, Knox and McBride wrapped up the state doubles title.
The weight of the accomplishment was just starting to set in on Monday night as the team was honored by the Johnson City Board of Education. Reid, who was 4 years old the last time Science Hill’s girls won a state title, expects the championship will bind the girls together.
“We kind of left a mark at Science Hill, and it’s really cool to share that with all of them,” she said.