McKinleyville makes smashing season debut against Arcata

TENNIS McKinleyville tennis players Meigan Butler and Jennifer Jolin. Rick Macey | Union

Rick Macey
Mad River Union

ARCATA – There’s a phrase in tennis that smart players take to heart:

Hustle, hit, and never quit.

Meet McKinleyville’s Jennifer Jolin and Arcata’s Haley Hill.

As the No. 1 singles players, both girls got off to a great start in the sort of matchup that nobody should have to lose.

Jolin rallied after dropping the first set to Hill for a 4-6, 6-4, 6-2 victory that sparked the Lady Panthers to a 6-3 win in Saturday’s season opener for both teams.

“I won my match so I like how I played,” Jolin said with a smile. “I came up to the net and I felt more powerful there. I was confident with my strokes and my serves.”

“Jen and Haley had a very impressive three-and-a-half hour slugfest,” Arcata coach Sheldon Heath said.

Both players suffered muscle cramps in the middle of the second set on a sweltering day.

The key to McKinleyville’s team victory was the strength of its singles ladder as the Lady Panthers swept the top four matches.

No. 2 Meigan Butler topped Marlie Thornburgh in straight sets, 6-3 and 6-0. She was a bit ambivalent about her performance.

“I can do better,” Butler said. “I have time to practice and improve. I was happy with the result and my groundstrokes.”

“I think I had really good forehands. I’ve been working on that,” added Butler. “I also had powerful backhands.”

“I think I did OK,” Thornburgh said, who was disappointed to be on the losing side in singles and doubles. “I tried my hardest. My serves were OK today. I played pretty good in my doubles match, so I’m happy with that performance.”

Arcata’s Kendra Flint lost to Laura Costa (6-2, 6-2) in the No. 3 singles matchup.

“I didn’t win but I played my hardest,” Flint said. “That’s good. I think I improved throughout the day, and that’s what counts.”

Coach Heath said his expectations were exceeded by Flint. “She is playing at the top of the ladder as a freshman. She played two great matches, even though she lost both.”

At No. 4 singles, Hailey Boyum refused to lose to Casey McAtasney in the only other matchup that went the distance. She won 6-4, 3-6, and 6-3.

Arcata’s Emerald VanBebber-Wiest snapped the losing streak, 6-3, 6-2, against Melissa Kingham.

Simone Haggerty added a second singles win for the homestanding Lady Tigers by shutting out Lilion Felt in straight sets.

“Simone had a very impressive outing today,” coach Heath said. He pointed out that Haggerty and VanBebber-Wiest dominated the No. 3 doubles match, topping Mack’s Lauren House and teammate Felt 8-0. The Lady Panthers had the last laugh. Jolin and Butler vanquished Hill and Thornburgh in No. 1 doubles 8-4 while No. 2 doubles duo Costa and Boyum beat Flint and McAtasney 8-4.