Triumphant ending: Vines rallies to third-straight state title

Published 9:02 pm Friday, May 27, 2016

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MURFREESBORO—Elizabethton High School senior Danielle Vines closed out her high school tennis career with a whopper of a win.

Friday at the Old Fort Park in Murfreesboro, Vines topped Trinity Christian’s Lindy Tatum 6-1, 6-0 to claim her third-straight TSSAA Class A-AA Girls’ Singles Championship.

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Vines may make winning a state championship look easy, but she is adamant that it takes a lot of work and time.

“It feels amazing to be able to win three state championships,” Vines said after Friday’s win. “It’s a lot of the work I have done year round. People ask if tennis is a spring or fall sport and I tell them, ‘Well, it is spring, but it is year round for me.’

“I am on the court five to six times a week and in the gym five to six times a week working,” she continued. “That is what wins me these things. It is the stuff that I do on my own in the gym.”

The score may not indicate it, but there were some tough rallies during Friday’s match as Tatum fought to stay in step with the three-time champ. In game three of the second set, Tatum came close to breaking Vines’ service. It was that game that featured one of the longest rallies in the match. As Vines and Tatum fired shots back and forth, Tatum worked her way up to the net. However, Vines was able to keep her composure and fight off Tatum’s attack for a point.

“She was definitely trying to be aggressive and get me on the run,” Vines said. “She successfully did that. I was thinking, ‘Keep grinding and keep the rally going.’ That was definitely a good point in the match.”

The game came down to a deuce point, and Vines ended the game with a huge serve down the “T” for an ace to keep Tatum from breaking her serve.

“That was a huge momentum point during the match,” Vines said. “Because it went to deuce, and then I hit an ace down the ‘T’

“I was pumped,” Vines continued. “I thought, ‘I can do this. Keep rolling and keep with the momentum.”

Sitting on the sidelines to cheer on the defending champ during the match were some of Vines’ fellow Lady Cyclones who were also in Murfreesboro to compete in the state track and field meet. EHS’ Emily Schubert, Camryn Koroma, Heather Feuchtenberger, and Autumn Thomas all showed up to support Vines.

“That was awesome for them all to give me that support,” Vines said. “I was so grateful to have fellow Cyclones come and watch the match today.”

Vines’ trip to her final state championship started when she was nine years old, when her tennis coach Steven Brown saw potential in her and talked her into playing tennis. From that point on, Vines has focused her time into the sport she loves, and Friday it payed off in a big way. And Vines is thankful to Brown for his years of guidance.

“If it wasn’t for him I wouldn’t be here,” Vines said. “I probably wouldn’t even be playing tennis. He has been with me, good, bad or ugly. He has been there to pick me up. He has been an amazing coach, and I am blessed to have him here today.”

Brown, who was on hand Friday to cheer Vines on, remembers when he first talked to Vines about playing tennis.

“I asked her how good she wanted to be, and she said, ‘I want to be as good as I can be,’” Brown said. “I told her that I could take her to where she would be one of the best in the country.

Ever since she started her journey into the world of tennis Vines has shown discipline and good work ethic, said Brown.

“She has done a great job,” Brown said. “She started lifting weights at ten, and she was already doing deadlifts at 12. . .  She has worked really really hard. She is probably one of the most in shape students at Elizabethton High School. Everyday that she works out, before she leaves, she always asks, ‘Did I do enough today?’ She never leaves satisfied. And that is why you see her get so angry when she loses a point.”

In Elizabethton and Carter County, Vines is a phenomenon that no one has ever seen, and Vines’ EHS tennis coach, Leanne Click, believes she will be a legend to future Cyclone tennis players.

“She is someone that will be remembered forever,” Click said. “She will be in the history of Elizabethton. It will be very very difficult to replace what she has done. I mean she is a three-time state champion and I think she is up to No. 17 in the nation. We have had great players come through Elizabethton, but she is at a different level.”

As Vines took in all the glory Friday, she looked to the future, a future that will see her play tennis at Furman University next year. And even though she is excited for what the next chapter in her life will bring, she is somewhat sad that her triumphant years of high school tennis has came to an end.

“It is bittersweet,” she said. “I am obviously looking forward to Furman more than ever, but it also sad to know that it is over. It was my last high school match ever. I am sad but excited at the same time.”