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MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — The last time Will Leathers was competing for a TSSAA team tennis championship he was one of the younger members of the McCallie program.

All of a sudden the roles have changed and he’s become one of its oldest.

Yet, some things haven’t changed. He is still playing No. 2 singles for the Blue Tornado and again the team is on the cusp of a Division II-AA state championship.

McCallie isn’t the only local representation. Baylor’s girls will be competing for their 10th consecutive championship in Division II-AA, while Arts & Sciences’s girls are one win away from their first team championship in their initial appearance in state, having defeated Madison Magnet 4-0 Tuesday.

Signal Mountain’s boys also advanced, defeating Milan to clinch a spot in the public school Small Class championship.

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McCallie secures shot at 10th TSAA tennis title

Like Baylor’s girls, McCallie is attempting to defend a state championship, having won in 2019 before the COVID-19 pandemic canceled the 2020 season. Leathers is one of three current players who particiapted in that tournament, with Colin Tuttle and Charles Park the others. Park is the only senior in the rotation, playing alongside eighth-grader Henry Imorde in doubles.

“Last year was tough,” Leathers said. “We practice all year long and we’re always geared towards May; it’s circled on the calendar all year. Everybody has put in their own work, but it was definitely difficult. We were gearing up to go back-to-back, but we’re back here and trying to go back-to-back again.”

Like most everyone dealing with COVID-19, just getting through the school year was tough. A couple of players came down with the Coronavirus in December, and then the school went virtual early in the second semester. Leathers himself had an offseason injury that led to a slow start, but the McCallie coaching staff has been able to infuse five players who have never been to Spring Fling before with players such as Leathers, Tuttle and Park to put the team on the doorstep of its 10th state title.

“Will’s been a great teammate, a positive person,” McCallie head coach Jeff Clark said. “He was a big part of our success two years ago, and he’s been a big part of our success this year. It would be really cool for him to get another state title.”

To do that, the Blue Tornado will have to get past a Montgomery Bell Academy team that is also shooting for its 10th championship. McCallie won the regular-season meeting 5-2 in Nashville, but this one has a lot more riding on it.

Leathers was one of the two losses, so he said he’s hoping to “kind of get some revenge.”

“I think our No. 1 thing is that everyone has a few things they would like to have cleaned up from that match, so I think everybody’s kind of looking to make an even bigger statement than last time when we played them,” Leathers said. “But everybody’s excited; there’s just a lot of talk in the team and everybody’s ready for this moment tomorrow.”

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @genehenley3.



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