Yellow Jackets punch tickets to state

Published 11:13 am Monday, April 8, 2024

BROOKHAVEN — Enterprise is sending three tennis players to the individual state tournament to be held in Oxford. Kolby Sagely, Kailee Nuckles and Allayna Barnett punched their ticket Friday afternoon at the MHSAA Class 1 Region 7 tennis tournament. 

Sagely beat out Loyd Star’s Ethan Smith 6-1, 6-3 in the Boys Singles tournament to claim first place in district. Smith and Sagely enjoyed a leisurely match as they had already punched their tickets to state. The win put Sagely in a good seed. 

“It feels pretty good to reach the state tournament. It has been my goal since I did last year.” Sagely said. “I wish I could have played Jax (Leggett). I had a good day. The first round when I played wasn’t ideal in the first set. I had to play a tiebreaker to win the first and won the second set.”

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Sagely came back from behind to beat Mason Barron 7-6 to 6-0 in his first match of the day to officially punch his ticket to state. He wasn’t happy with the first round performance but had more fun in his second and final round. 

Smith will be one of Sagely’s main opponents over the next few years in tennis. Sagely is a junior and is looking forward to the state tournament. 

“I want to advance past the second round. I have never been past the second round and I am to go as far as I can in state,” Sagely said. “That is my main goal. To be one of the top ones in the state. It is a whole level from this. There are some great guys at state.”

Enterprise’s Nuckles and Barrett punched their ticket to the state championship by beating Loyd Star’s Camille Creel and Julia Speeg 6-3,6-3 in a battle for the last spot. Knuckles and Barrett finished runner up in the girls doubles district tournament court and in the No.1 court bracket. 

Nuckles said the win was huge because it is the first time she has qualified for state. Her teammate Barnett has made it every year for the last four years. This season was the first time they had played together as partners. 

“My partner graduated and her’s graduated. They stuck us together and thought we would be good,” Nuckles said. “You have to practice with a new partner and learn with each other. You have to communicate. Last year, my partner and I didn’t have to communicate because we read each other’s minds. We had to get used to playing together this year.” 

Barnett said the match to send them to the state tournament was fun and stressful. She played mixed doubles last year and had to adjust to a different flow of the game in girls doubles. Guys tend to target the girls in mixed doubles, she said. 

“Playing against two girls makes it easier for me,” she said. “We want to go all the way. We hope to win at state. We don’t know what to expect but we aren’t intimidated.” 

Enterprise tennis head coach Karen Dunaway will not return to the program next season. She was named the Best of Southwest Mississippi High School Teacher in 2023 and has earned the STAR teacher award. Dunaway said she would be finishing her career at Salem. Students at Enterprise started a petition asking her to stay according to Change.Org. It had 198 signatures as of Monday. 

Sagely is sad to see Dunaway go. Enterprise is scheduled to open its MHSAA Class 1 team playoffs against Philidelphia Monday at the Brookhaven Country Club, weather permitting. It could be one of the last time she coaches the team. 

“I’m thankful for coach Dunaway. I appreciate her and I’m going to miss her. It will be hard to have her gone,” Sagely said. “I told her she has to come to all of my matches next year. I’ll make sure she is there. It is sad to see her go. Hopefully we can win in the playoffs this year. I have faith in us. We have a good team this year. I’m proud of everyone. They did a great job. Go Jackets.”