Hope Kitchen, left, and Lucy Kelley, right, pose with their winning state championship bracket Wednesday with head coach Meredith Gruhl after winning the AAA doubles title in Macon. (Deerfield-Windsor/Special to The Herald)
MACON — After finding redemption and revenge in the final match of their high school tennis careers Wednesday at the state tournament, 2012 GISA Class AAA doubles state champions Lucy Kelley and Hope Kitchen of Deerfield didn’t exactly have celebration on their minds.
“I think more than anything, both of us are worried about our tests in the morning and how we’re going to be able to go home and study after such a long — but exciting — day,” Kitchen said late Thursday evening as she drove home from Macon, before adding with an exhausted laugh: “We’ve got AP bio and pre-calculus tests in the morning, so we can’t celebrate too long. It’s get home, have dinner, get a shower and then go straight to the books.”
It was dedication like that which carried the two Lady Knights seniors through their unbelievable season — a season culminated with a payback win in Wednesday’s title match against Westfield, the only team to beat Deerfield during the regular season. In fact, it was the season opener, and since that time, they haven’t lost.
“They finished 14-1 and their only loss was the first one to Westfield,” DWS coach Meredith Gruhl said. “So that’s 14 in a row, including two against Westfield — one in the region finals and one at state. How about that?”
Kelley and Kitchen won in straight sets Wednesday, 7-5, 6-2, to beat the duo from Westfield — Stephanie Campbell and Ellen Grier — for the program’s first state title in two years.
Ironically, the last to win state for the Deerfield girls was also Kitchen, who won it with her older sister, Sarah, in 2010, as a sophomore.
“It feels incredible, especially with us both being seniors this year,” Hope Kitchen said of her and Kelley. “We knew we had to leave it all on the court because we told ourselves before the match we weren’t leaving there as anything but winners. And we did everything in our power to make sure that happened.”
Gruhl said it was that sheer determination, along with an afternoon or “perfect tennis” which propelled her girls to the title, the final match for which was delayed more than five hours due to off and on rain Wednesday.
“They wanted this. They had very few unforced errors and they had a perfect game plan for Westfield once again,” Gruhl said. “I’m so proud of them, and watching them hug after it was over was just the sweetest thing ever. They worked hard for this, and they went out with a bang.”
The duo advanced to the title match in the afternoon by winning their semifinal round against Stratford, 6-4, 6-1, to set up the rematch everyone in GISA knew was coming.
“We were excited to play them again. We had a strategy and we knew it could work,” Kelley said. “We just had to be patient, wait for our chance to poach and hit winners and try to keep them off their toes.”
Fast forward to this morning, and on their toes is where the girls from Deerfield will have to be as they as they sit down to take their tests, which they’re using to prepare for UGA in the fall.
So ... any chance their teachers will give them a break in the classroom after making the school so proud out of it Wednesday?
“I wish,” Kitchen said. “But I doubt it.”
OTHER DWS PLAYERS FALL SHORT: Robert Newsome and Reid Wright lost in the Class AAA boys doubles semis Wednesday against the team from Mount de Sales that ended up winning it.
Will Calhoun and Pete Langstaff also lost on the other side of the bracket to the team from Stratford.
DWS’ last remaining singles player in the draw, Joyner Tyson, also lost in the semis to her opponent from Statford, although DWS did earn seven of the 16 all-tournament spots.