It’s been over 10 days now, but the luster hasn’t yet worn off the shining performance by members of the GHS tennis team in the state tournament last week.
Accompanied by Head Coach Ken Hamilton, three boys and two girls represented Greenwood High School in the Class 5A state tournament at Lakeside High School in Hot Springs on October 14th and 15th.
Zackery Beshears, Eli Butler, and Jonathan Mitchell were the Bulldogs who qualified, while the GHS ladies were represented by a pair of seniors, Olivia Gaston and Abigail Woodring.
Beshears, Gaston, and Woodring all competed in singles play, with Woodring reaching the semi-finals and Gaston the finals. Butler and Mitchell played doubles and won two matches, also reaching the semi-finals.
Beshears advanced to the second round after winning his opening match over Marcelles Nash of Benton, 6-1, 6-2, but was defeated in the quarter finals by Lakeside’s Ben Hollis, 6-1, 6-1.
Butler and Mitchell played well and advanced two rounds to the semifinals. They won their opener, 6-0, 6-2, over a duo from Sheridan, then won 6-3, 6-2, over their opponents from Searcy.
The GHS combo then lost in three sets to a pair from Jonesboro, winning the first set 6-4, then losing 4-6, 4-6, in a hotly contested match.
Butler is the only senior boy, while Beshears and Mitchell are both juniors and will return for the 2020 season.
Gaston and Woodring are two of the best female singles players Greenwood has ever fielded at the same time. Each player lost just two matches all season and none during regular season conference play.
Both girls reached the conference tournament finals and had to play each other for the championship, won by Gaston, and it almost happened again in state competition.
Woodring won her first two matches before losing in the semi-finals to the eventual state champion from Jonesboro, Jenna Payne.
The GHS senior won (6-1, 4-6, 6-1) over Emma Thomas of El Dorado, then defeated Samantha Holt of West Memphis (7-5, 7-6) to reach the semis. She then lost to Payne, (4-6, 1-6). But Gaston was even better, reaching the finals before falling to Payne, (0-6, 2-6).
The Lady Bulldogs’ senior won her three earlier matches over opponents from Lake Hamilton (6-0, 6-0), Jonesboro (7-6, 6-3), and Lakeside (7-6 (8), 6-3).
It was the third trip to the finals for Gaston, who finished as state runner-up each time, including her freshman year. She hopes to continue playing on the college level.
Woodring also represented the 5A West Conference in the tennis overalls played this past Monday at Burns Park in North Little Rock. The event features some of the best players across the state regardless of classification.
According to Coach Hamilton, Woodring drew a very tough opponent from Valley View and lost in straight sets in the first round, even though she played well.
Butler, Woodring, and Gaston, all seniors, were selected as All-state performers, along with Jonathan Mitchell.
“With conference championships in both girls and boys, the Bulldogs’ tennis program had a very good year,” said Hamilton, who just completed his 25th season at the helm.
“Sending three boys and two girls to the state tournament indicates the level of talent the top Bulldogs’ players had this year. They all had a season they can look back on with pride as they represented the GHS athletic program extremely well,” he added.
“The younger players also gained valuable experience throughout the season,” said the coach. “Graduating some of [our] best players leaves large gaps to be filled on [both] teams. Hopefully, some players will put in the time and work necessary to step up for the team next year.”
Hamilton ended his remarks with a heartwarming observation about his players, saying, “They are a good group of young people the school and community can be proud of.”