Beaufort High School tennis players flooded their classmates with the message Thursday, telling anyone who would listen to come out and watch their Class 4-A playoff match.
The girls felt support for the tennis team had been lacking and that the second-round match with nemesis Lexington would be the perfect time to fire up the base.
"Biggest match of the season, right here," senior Kelsey Butler said. "I was chanting it."
Their efforts were rewarded with a large crowd. Parents, friends and classmates filled in around the tennis courts. Football players showed up after practice. The home crowd grew rowdy at times.
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But the young Lexington team, which had knocked Beaufort High from the playoffs the past two seasons, snuffed the Eagles' season again with a 4-2 victory.
Wildcats senior Kelly Gajewski, the only senior in the team's lineup, picked up an important victory at No. 3 singles after missing most of the season with an injured thumb. One of the last two matches on the court, Gajewski came back in the second set to defeat Butler 6-4, 7-5 and assure Lexington of victory.
The loss was the final match for Beaufort High seniors Charlotte Bellomy, Butler and Addie Everidge, three of the team's top four singles players. The Eagles cried and laughed and lingered on the court with their supporters under the lights.
They said the finality of the match probably wouldn't hit them until Monday, when players don't have to report to practice.
"I've never seen the team fight so hard and support each other this much," said Bellomy, whose victory in a tiebreaker at No. 1 singles was the final match to end.
Everidge also closed on a winning note, defeating Carley Neuberger 6-2, 6-1 at No. 4 singles.
Beaufort High coach David Riedmayer thought his team would need to win at least three of the first four singles matches, that Lexington was strong at the bottom. But the Wildcats, despite Beaufort High's hopes that this year was different, still proved too strong. Coach Eric Jackson's team finished second in Region 5 and graduated a senior from its No. 2 spot but still owned the depth to emerge as one of the strongest teams in the Lower State bracket, despite the youth.
Jackson starts freshmen in the top two spots and a freshman in No. 2 doubles. A steady breeze seemed to favor Beaufort High's cause, Jackson said. The Wildcats wanted to play aggressive and hit hard and were tempered by the wind and Beaufort High's consistent hitting.
"They made us work for everything," Jackson said. "That's one of the hardest matches I've had to coach all year. They were tough and you add the wind, it was brutal."
Bellomy continues on to the state singles tournament and the North-South event. Butler and Everidge are holding out hope for a North-South bid. The seniors all hope to continue playing tennis in college, whether for the school or a club.
The Eagles, which also lose sophomore Shaye McAulliffe to a move, will rebuild by playing a vareity of tournaments during the summer to gain experience.
"Athletics, it teaches you hard work, goal-setting and perseverance," Riedmayer said. "We're just going to keep working."
Lexington 4, Beaufort High 2
Singles: No. 1 Charlotte Bellomy (B) def. Katie Thompson 6-3, 5-7 (10-8); No. 2 Amy Lance (L) def. Shaye McAulliffe 6-1, 6-4; No. 3 Kelly Gajewski (L) def. Kelsey Butler 6-4, 7-5; No. 4 Addie Everidge (B) def. Carley Neuberger 6-2, 6-1; No. 5 Erin Lavisky (L) def. Zoe Brais 6-2, 6-4.
Doubles: Madisyn Currie/Mary Weston Lawrence (L) def. Austen Stoddard/Katie Newell 6-4, 6-0.