MB girls tennis season comes to controversial close

A sign at the Myrtle Beach Tennis Center features a long list of years the Lady Seahawks tennis team has won the state championship.

Unfortunately, 2011 will not be one of them.

Myrtle Beach suffered a controversial 4-3 loss to visiting Bluffton on Thursday in the Class AAA state tournament, with the match coming down to a long No. 1 doubles match.

It was one of four matches to be decided by a tiebreaker, but the close contest was not the matter that could result in a challenge by the Lady Seahawks.

At issue was the playing status of Bluffton’s Catie Meighon, who won her No. 4 singles match over Myrtle Beach’s Emma Spielvogel 6-1, 6-2.

She then teamed up with No. 1 singles player Charlotte Loper for a 4-6, 6-4, 11-9 victory over Myrtle Beach’s Jessie Dumas and Rachel Berkey in No. 1 doubles.

But Myrtle Beach coach Jerri Himmelsbach questioned Meighon’s placement at No. 4 singles, arguing she should have been the Lady Bobcats’ No. 2 or 3 player, especially since she went on to play No. 1 doubles.

“I just hate it for the girls that it came down to such a questionable situation,” Himmelsbach said. “Our girls had a great season and it was a tough way for it to end.”

Teams are required to accurately rank their players in the postseason to prevent a team using stronger players at lower positions to gain a points advantage.

The match could have gone either way as the Lady Seahawks lost in three of the four tiebreakers, including the No. 1 doubles match that didn’t end until 2 hours after play began.

Myrtle Beach swept the top two singles spots as No. 1 Dumas dominated Loper 6-2, 6-3, and No. 2 Berkey rolled to a 6-0, 6-2 victory over Samantha Brophy.

Bluffton’s No. 3 singles player Taylor Soop defeated Myrtle Beach’s Carolyn Gore 6-0, 5-7, 14-12, and No. 5 Justine Wilson won 3-6, 6-1, 10-8 over Myrtle Beach’s Emma Springs.

The Lady Seahawks came out on top in No. 2 doubles, with Jessie Baker and Barbara Laboscava claiming a 6-4, 6-7, 10-8 win over Ashley Bierschenic and Cooper Baxter.

The possible appeal is unlikely to result in the match being overturned, however, since it is difficult to prove how another team sets its lineup. Still, the defeat will serve as motivation for Myrtle Beach next season. The Lady Seahawks won their final five regular season matches to claim the region championship, and all those players will be back next season.

“Our girls really improved late in the year and they’re working hard to put Myrtle Beach tennis back on top,” Himmelsbach said. “We only have one senior and she was injured, so we’re bringing everyone back next year.”

Photo by Rancier Photography

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