Livesay wins Western Highland Conference tennis title

Published 11:21 pm Thursday, October 16, 2014

By Mark Schmeling

On a very warm and sunny day, after running, crouching, bending and hitting hundreds of balls across the net and then suffering from leg cramps, Polk County senior Alivia Livesay reached back for all she had and won the Western Highland Conference tennis title at Polk County High School.

Though both Livesay and her final opponent in last Wednesday’s match, Owen’s Katie Craig had, by reaching the conference finals, qualified to play in this weekend’s regional tournament (which begins around 1 p.m. Friday at Gardner-Webb University), they were each playing for pride and a chance for better seeding at regionals, to which the top two players in each conference advance.

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Coach Richard Davis explained that in conference matches, the first player to win 10 games against a given opponent is the winner. Prior to facing Craig, Livesay had played her usual fine tennis and had defeated all opponents.

Though Craig had defeated Livesay once (at Owen) this year, and Livesay had topped Craig (at Polk) this season, Livesay quickly put Craig in a nine games to four hole.

“Alivia had it going really good early on,” Davis said.  “But,” Davis noted, ”tennis is a funny game,” in which hitting just one bad ball can turn things around for a player with a big lead.

Livesay slipped a bit while Craig played well, and came back to tie the match at nine games apiece.

“At about 9-7, the cramping began,” Davis reported. “At about 9-9, it took her (Livesay) to the ground.”

After officials massaged Livesay’s muscles, “We got her back on her feet, and she said she wanted to continue.”

Craig eventually went ahead, 10-9 in games. “At 10-9, she (Livesay) knocked off enough shots to make it 10-10 (in games),” said Davis. While the first player to win 10 games wins the match, they also must win by at least two games.

At a 10-10 game score, a tiebreaker format began, with the first player to score 10 points winning the match. Some two hours after the match began, Livesay went on to win the tiebreaker, 10 points to eight, after being down, 5-2 at one point.

As for Livesay’s accomplishment, Davis noted, “She was so pleased, and I was tickled for her.”

Winning that match was for either player more than simply a matter of pride.

“When you get to the regionals,” Davis explained, “it’s a war to get a player seeded. Higher-seeded players often initially face somewhat less tough opponents. As conference champion, Livesay has a better chance for higher seeding.

So far, Livesay’s regional competition experience has been as a member of a doubles team. This will mark her first appearance in singles play.

Livesay is the only Polk player to reach the regional tournament, but Davis is pleased to have had a team to coach this season. Early on, Livesay was the only player on the roster, and Davis had to serve as both recruiter and coach to field a team.

Davis’s recruiting efforts brought on enough players to field all six positions at singles matches during the season, and it helped instill a level of pride and fun in many of those players. “From two all the way down to six (referring to each player’s rank on the Wolverines, following Livesay at number one), the turnaround was remarkable,”
Davis reported.  Though Polk as a team won no matches during the season, some players (including Shannon Collins) won individual matches.

“It was great to see them improve, and great to see them enjoy the sport,” Davis remarked.