High School Sports

Bluffton tennis team picks up first ever win over HH Prep

Bob Brown found the binder in the passenger seat of his sport utility vehicle and flipped through its pages.

The Bluffton High School tennis coach was searching for evidence of his girls ever having defeated Hilton Head Prep. He didn't find any. All of the most recent matches swung heavily in the Dolphins' favor.

Until Tuesday.

Playing on its own courts, Bluffton bolstered claims that it might have one of its more talented teams by defeating Prep 5-1.

"They're generally stronger than us," Brown said. "That's what makes this kind of sweet."

The Bobcats know the path to a successful season runs through Hilton Head High, their Region 7-AAA rivals and winners of four consecutive state titles. But they say there is reason to hope this season could be special.

Bluffton (5-0) added young talent with seventh grader Catie Meighan playing No. 4 singles and eighth grader Cooper Baxter playing doubles. Both won tightly contested matches Tuesday.

The reinforced Bobcats will be tested next week, when they face Beaufort High and region foes Berkeley and Hilton Head High before a rematch with Prep.

Brown said the Eagles would provide a good test in preparation for the rival Seahawks. Hilton Head High dropped Beaufort High convincingly last week.

The Bobcats know Hilton Head High is the team to beat, but say expectations are high.

"I think we have the best chance we've had in a while," said Bluffton's Samantha Brophy, who defeated Katie Rankin 6-1, 6-1 at No. 3 singles. "Everybody's working hard. Hopefully it will pay off this year."

Shannon O'Brien delivered Prep's lone point. She came back from down a set to take the second 7-6 and then owned the third-set tiebreaker. The match lasted close to 2 1/2 hours.

"She just outplayed me," Loper said. "It was a tough match, and she was an awesome player."

The teams' meeting last season played out just the opposite. Loper captured the only win for Bluffton, while the Dolphins ran away with the match. Each of the previous matches in Brown's binder of results showed Prep dominance, including a 6-0 Dolphins victory in 2007 and a 5-2 win in 2006.

Brown acknowledged the Dolphins might not have been at full strength Tuesday, but said it didn't cheapen the achievement.

"We're not making rookie, emotional mistakes," Brown said. "We're pretty serious and solid right now."

Bluffton 5, Hilton Head Prep 1

Singles: No. 1 Shannon O'Brien (HHP) def. Charlotte Loper 4-6, 7-6 10-4; No. 2 Taylor Soop (B) def. Maggie Colket 7-5, 6-1; No. 3 Samantha Brophy def. Katie Rankin 6-1, 6-1; No. 4 Catie Meighan (B) def. Sofia Duesberg 6-4, 6-4; No. 5 Justine Wilson (B) 6-1, 7-6 (7-2).

Doubles: No. 2 Ashley Bierschenk/Cooper Baxter def. Marina Colket/Erica Larson 2-6, 7-5, 10-5.

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