By Rubin E. Grant
When Timarie Fisk took over for her second stint as Vestavia Hills’ girls tennis coach this spring, she approached first-year boys coach Oliver Aaron about the teams providing support for each other.
“We wanted the boys and girls to just be ‘one’ Rebel,” Fisk said. “We wanted to rely on each other and be there to support each other.”
The team’s camaraderie was certainly on display at the AHSAA Class 7A State Tennis Championships April 18-19 at the Mobile Tennis Center.
With both squads cheering on each other, the Rebels swept the Class 7A state championships.
Vestavia Hills’ boys claimed their seventh state title overall and their sixth since 2011, posting 53 points in the two-day tournament. Hoover was second with 32 points and Auburn was third with 26. The Rebels boys won four consecutive titles from 2011-2014 and won the Class 7A title in 2019.
The Vestavia Hills girls won their 12th state title overall but their first since 2016, scoring 57 points. Auburn was second with 42 points and Huntsville third with 37.
It was just the second time both Vestavia Hills tennis teams won state championships in the same year, matching the 2013 season.
“That’s pretty cool,” Aaron said. “The kids played well, representing Vestavia. This is an exciting time for our tennis programs.”
Fisk was the girls coach in 2013, the first time both Rebels’ team won.
“It’s really great to see both teams be successful and be there to push, encourage and provide off-court support for each other,” Fisk said. “That’s the best part.”
The Vestavia Hills boys won three singles titles and finished as runners-up in another. The Rebels swept the three doubles championships.
Ryan Pearlman won the No. 3 singles title for the Rebels, defeating Hoover’s Gavin Patton 6-4, 6-0. Kade Nelson won No. 4 singles, defeating Hoover’s Matthew Hajazin 6-4, 6-1. Luke Bedwell won No. 5 singles, defeating Auburn’s Davis Jackson 6-0, 6-3. The Rebels’ Drew Castleberry lost 4-6, 6-2, 10-6 to Auburn’s Kevin Yan in the No. 6 singles final.
Hoover’s Isaac Hwangpo won No. 2 singles, defeating Huntsville’s Evan Williams 6-1, 6-3. The Bucs’ Samuel Sellers lost to Bob Jones’ Parker Free 6-1, 6-1 in the No. 1 singles final.
In doubles, Pearlman and Jake Anthony defeated Hoover’s Hwangpo and Patton 6-3, 6-3 at No. 1. Nelson and John Michael Yanosky won No. 2, defeating Huntsville’s Logan Thomas and Jacob Corrigan 6-2, 6-1. Castleberry and Kyle Norris won No. 3, defeating Auburn’s Lenny Bankson and Luis Jeong 6-2, 6-2.
“We were very fortunate,” Aaron said. “Our kids were able to lock in and do what they needed to do.”
Vestavia Hills girls had lost in a tiebreaker to Auburn in 2021 to finish as Class 7A runners-up, and although they won by a comfortable margin this year, Fisk said it was a battle.
“I honestly couldn’t be more proud of our team, but it was not easy,” she said. “We had two tiebreakers in the third set in the championship singles and another one in the doubles semifinals. It was a mental struggle and we had to focus to get through it.”
The Rebels girls won five of the six singles finals. At No. 2, freshman Ansley Cox defeated Huntsville’s Stella Stephens 6-2, 6-1.
“I felt really good to be able to contribute,” Cox said. “I thought that was some of the best tennis I’ve played all season. It kind of all just clicked.”
At No. 3, the Rebels’ Katherine Morros defeated Hoover’s Kristina Hwangpo 5-7, 6-4, 10-4; at No. 4, Madison Standifer defeated Auburn’s Shreya Ejantkar 6-2, 6-1; at No. 5, Kenley Outzen defeated Auburn’s Hanbi Youn 4-6, 7-5, 10-3; and at No. 6 Caroline Helms defeated Auburn’s Victoria Choo 6-4, 6-3.
Vestavia Hills senior Cindy Jiang lost 6-2, 6-1 in No. 1 singles to Auburn’s Claire Bosman.
The Rebels won two of the third doubles finals. At No. 2, Cox and Outzen defeated Auburn’s Ejantkar and Youn 6-1, 6-2 and at No. 3 Morros and Nancy Chen defeated Huntsville Hannah Bryant and Lydia Clark 6-0, 6-2.
“This is the most fun I’ve had coaching a team,” Fisk said. “They were willing to dig deep and put forth effort and believe in each other to get it done. It was amazing to see them do that.”