• Columbia Girls Tennis Returns to State

    By Cliff Olsen, Sun Correspondent


    Published April 14th, 2011

    When the ball bounced into the other side of the net, Columbia tennis player Kelsey Mercer said that she felt more relief than she could ever explain

    The clutch win by the senior brought an end to the match that lasted just over four hours, and more importantly clinched Columbia’s second-straight berth in the FHSAA Class 3A state tournament.

    “I knew I was the deciding match and I was trying to push that out of my head and play my game,” said Mercer, who defeated Brianna Harper 7-6, 6-2. “Just knowing that I finally got that last set under my belt and everything was finished, it was the best feeling ever.”

    Following the Tigers’ third dual-match win over the Hurricanes (6-8) this season, Columbia coach Tabatha McMahon and Mercer each received a water cooler shower.

    “It was grueling, it was surreal, it was unbelievable and awesome,” McMahon said. “These girls have taken me for an incredible ride for the last three years, and I am just so excited.”

    Madison Parenti started the match off for GHS, with a 6-2, 6-3 win over Heather Benson at No. 5 singles. But Columbia’s No. 1 doubles team of Chrissie Reichert and Susy Romero posted a 6-4, 6-0 victory over Eve Sampson and Callie Lajza that tied the match at 1-1. Mercer and Taylor Owens then won at No. 2 doubles before Romero cruised past Lajza at No. 2 singles to give the Tigers (13-2) a 3-1 cushion.

    But Sarah Lima blanked Jessie Bates at No. 4 singles, and Sampson followed with a straight-set win over Reichert at No. 1 singles to even the team score at 3-3.

    With the focus shifted to the deciding match, Mercer pulled out the first set, 7-6, by winning the tiebreaker 7-2. She then trailed Harper, a junior, 2-1 in the second set before ripping off the next five games.

    On match point, Harper’s return of a Mercer forehand was short and into the net and concluded the long afternoon.

    Despite the loss, Sampson will represent GHS at next week’s state tournament in Altamonte Springs, by virtue of her district title at No. 1 singles last week.

    The Hurricanes were looking to reach state as a team for the first time since 2007.

    “It was pretty amazing,” McMahon said. “(The water cooler shower) was icy cold and was a sharp realization that we get to go to state again.”

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