Spain Park claims 7A State Tennis Championship

By ALEC ETHEREDGE | Managing Editor

MONTGOMERY – With athletes competing in every singles and doubles division at the 2021 AHSAA State Tennis Tournament for the Spain Park Jaguars on Monday and Tuesday, April 19-20, the stage was set for a special week for the Jaguars, and they didn’t walk away empty handed.

The Jags put together two singles champions and two doubles champions, while they saw two others make the semifinals and one other make a championship match to total 43 team points and bring home the Class 7A State Championship.

Spain Park beat out crosstown rival Hoover and Huntsville who tied for second place with 34 points each.

Jake Wilson and John Kendrick were two big reasons for the victory, as they brought home individual state championship in No. 1 and No. 5 singles, respectively.

Wilson was forced to do so in four matches, which was one of the longest treks for any state champion this year.

In the No. 1 singles, he was one of four to have to play in the first round, while six ended up with byes.

That didn’t deter Wilson, however, who won his opening match in straight sets against Enterprise’s Alex Nelson 6-1, 6-1 to advance to the quarterfinals.

And that’s where he faced his toughest test in a battle against Auburn’s Tanner DeBarelaben.

But Wilson has been a leader for one of the best teams in the state this season, and that paid off in the match. After fighting to a 6-6 tie in the opening set of the quarterfinal match, a tiebreaker was used to determine who would take the 1-0 lead.

The two ended up tied 7-7 in the tiebreaker, but Wilson was able to claim two points in a row to take the tiebreaker 9-7 and the set 7-6.

That ended up being too much for DeBarelaben to bounce back from, as Wilson went on to win the second set with much more easy at 6-2 to earn a spot in the semifinals against Hoover’s Sam Tolbert.

It took another tough battle for Wilson, but no tiebreakers were needed in a straight-set victory featuring set wins of 6-4 and 7-5 to advance to the championship match.

Taking on Parker Free of Bob Jones, Wilson was confident after taking down some of the state’s top players and he used that as fuel in a dominant finish to his state championship run, taking the title with a 6-1, 6-2 straight-set victory.

Wilson went 4-0 without dropping a set en route to claiming the title.

Kendrick’s path to the No. 5 singles was just as dominant. He had one less match, but also made it through without dropping a set.

He took down Fairhope’s Wright Tapscott 6-0, 6-2 to earn a matchup with rival Andrew Pierson at Hoover in the semifinals.

In a tighter battle, he was able to find the breaks he needed in both sets to pick up a 6-4, 6-3 win to claim a spot in the championship match against Auburn’s Jisung Choo.

Choo also made it to the championship match without dropping a set, which led to a tight battle between the two, but Kendrick again found the breaks he needed to win.

He claimed the championship with a straight-set 6-4, 6-4 win to give the Jags their second singles champion of the event.

Spain Park’s Walker Jackson also made it to a championship match, winning his first two matches 6-0, 6-0 and 6-2, 6-2, before falling 6-0, 6-1 to Huntsville’s Logan Thomas in the championship.

The Jaguars also got appearances in the semifinals from Brenton Cate and Matthew Kendrick.

Cate made it in the No. 2 singles after winning his opening match 6-0, 6-1 before falling to Hoover’s Isaac Hwangpo in a tough three setter in the semifinals. He won the opening set 6-4, but lost the second set 6-1 and then lost the tiebreaker third set 10-6.

Kendrick also took his opening set 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the semifinals against Auburn’s Carter Chase, but Chase ended up advancing to the championship match with a 6-1, 6-4 victory.

Spain Park also had success in doubles with the duos of Wilson/Jackson and Cate/Sam Wasko taking home championships in No. 2 and No. 3 doubles.

Wilson and Jackson did so in dominant fashion with three consecutive straight-set victories. They took down James Clemens 6-4, 6-1, Fairhope 6-0, 6-0 and Hoover 6-4, 6-3 to win the championship.

Cate and Wasko weren’t any less dominant in their run, dropping just three total games en route to the title, all of which came in the championship.

The duo beat Enterprise and Fairhope 6-0, 6-0 to earn a spot in the championship. That’s when they went on to finish off the dominant state tournament with wins of 6-1 and 6-2 to take the title.

The Jags also advanced to the semifinals in the No. 1 doubles, beating Fairhope 6-1, 6-1 in the first round before losing 6-4, 6-4 to Huntsville in the semis.