published Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

Jackson Lenoir, Taylor Johnson, Lady Bucs duo advance to state

East Hamilton volleyball coach Kristy Lenoir nearly made herself sick with worry Tuesday afternoon while watching her son, Arts & Sciences senior Jackson Lenoir, play in his Region 3-A/AA tennis singles final.

At one point she found herself on a bench on the opposite side of the Champions Club, viewing another match.

She can breathe easier this morning.

It took his biggest test of the year, but Lenoir rallied to defeat Grace Academy's Blake Savard 5-7, 7-6 (7-2), 6-1 to advance again to the state tournament. Girls' champions were East Hamilton's Taylor Johnson in singles and Boyd-Buchanan's Emily Brown and Taylor Eades in doubles.

Savard had match point in the second set against Lenoir, but the 2011 Class A/AA state singles runner-up rallied to force a tiebreaker, then cruised in the third set as the Grace sophomore suffered from leg cramps and had trouble moving.

"I felt I played solid in the first and the beginning of the second set, but I started to relax a bit and gave him a chance to get back in it," Savard said. "Then my leg cramped, and it never got any better."

Lenoir improved to 22-0 but knew how close he was to having his dream season end.

"I didn't play basketball this year so I could focus on tennis," the 6-foot-6 senior said. "I started thinking in the second set about how I had worked too hard to not fight back in this match. It's been my goal all season to get back to state, and I knew I couldn't end my season like this."

Brown and Eades will be in their first state tournament after three consecutive years of winning their district. They fell in the region championship match two seasons ago before losing in the semifinals last season.

They had no trouble Tuesday, defeating Collegedale Academy's Dani-Lou Voigt and Emily Wilt 7-5, 6-1.

"This has been our goal all year," Eades said. "We took a lot of lessons, worked on our communication and took things real serious this season. We really wanted to go to state, and it's an awesome feeling to get that chance."

Johnson advanced to the state in doubles last season with teammate Hilleary Chandler but chose the individual route this season and dropped only four games in her two matches Tuesday. She claimed the title with a 6-2, 6-1 victory over Collegedale's Alicia Salazar, a state semifinalist last season.

Salazar had gutted out a 6-4, 6-7 (7-5), 6-3 victory over Central's Autumn Baker in Tuesday's semis.

"I thought I was very consistent today, and that's what got me through," Johnson said. "I'm proud that I was able to make it to state, and I hope I can hold my own when I get there."

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