By Monty Campbell
Killeen Daily Herald
COPPERAS COVE – The Copperas Cove Bulldawgs and Ellison officially opened the fall high school athletic season for area schools as the Bulldawgs defeated the Eagles 13-6 in a team tennis match Thursday at the Bulldawg Tennis Complex.
In what was an expected turn of events, Copperas Cove dominated the girls action by capturing eight out of the nine matches between the two teams and coasted to the victory.
"Overall, we played pretty well considering it was the first varsity match and there were some early season jitters," Copperas Cove coach Paul Talbett said. "On the girls side, we knew that we were capable of getting six wins, if we played well, and we took eight out of nine. I am very pleased with their effort today."
Tina Thai and Dana Whitt started things off on the right foot for Cove by picking up a victory for the team in No. 1 girls doubles. They defeated Naz Hernandez and Sam Martinez in straight sets, 6-3, 6-1.
The No. 2 girls team of Dani Almli and Shannon Edwards and No. 3 girls team of Jillian Jones and Candace Walker added two more victories for Cove by knocking off the Ellison pairings of Walker and Rivera (6-1, 6-3) and Johnson and Guevera (6-1, 6-1), respectively.
Incoming freshman Malika Bembridge picked up right where her fellow Lady Dawgs left off in girls' singles action as she quickly disposed of Hernandez, dropping only one game in the match, 6-1, 6-0.
Martinez kept Ellison from getting shut out when she knocked off Jones in No. 2 singles 7-6 (2), 7-5.
In other girls singles play, Whitt defeated Michelle Suggs 6-3, 6-0; Bazil Griener defeated Brittany Walker 6-3, 6-2; Edwards knocked off Annalisa Guevara 4-6, 6-2, 11-9; and Thai defeated Jo Martinez 6-0, 6-2.
Ellison's Ivory Washington demonstrated why he is considered one of the top players in the area as he defeated Tevin Ogo 6-3, 4-6, 10-7, in a close match between each team's No. 1 boys' singles player.
Chris Smith and Marcus Geisler added to the Eagle win total with victories in each of their respective matches over Matt Cranfill and Leighton Bennett by identical scores of 6-4, 6-4.
For Copperas Cove, another incoming freshman demonstrated that he will be a force to be reckoned with on the boysside of the ledger for four years as he was victorious in his first varsity match.
Tim Ortner survived the nerves and inexperience in his first set and cruised to a straight-sets victory over Blane Cockrell, 6-4, 6-0. Bulldawg teammates Zack Bengston and Jordan Kingery added wins to Cove's total by knocking off Justin Rodgers, 6-2, 6-3; and John Koven, 6-2, 7-5.
As was the case in boys singles, Ellison came out on top in the first two boys doubles positions. Smith and Koven defeated Bengston and Cranfill 6-3, 6-4, while Washington and Geisler knocked off Kingery and Ogo 6-3, 6-2.
Once again, freshmen stepped up for Cove in the final boys doubles match and the mixed doubles match. Ortner and Bennett teamed up to defeat Johnson and Haston 6-3, 4-6, 14-12 and Bembridge and Ryan Wakabayashi defeated Suggs and Rodgers 0-6, 6-0, 10-6.
"We are still young on the boys' side with five of the seven players rather inexperienced but they played well, despite the nerves," Talbett said. "I was really impressed with the way (Tim) Ortner and (Leighton) Bennett stepped up big for us. I am very proud of everyone's play today."
Copperas Cove returns to action Saturday at Harker Heights at 9 a.m. before hosting Marble Falls at 2 p.m.
Contact Monty Campbell at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (254) 547-9173.