It’s been over a decade since Massac County High School has sent a tennis player to the big dance — aka, the IHSA state tournament. In the 2011 season, then-senior Max Farmer placed third in the Carbondale sectional to advance.
But freshman Tate Jennings, the sole player on the 2023 Patriots “team,” is on his way to the northwestern Chicago suburb of Palatine to represent Massac County as a singles player.
Since the abandonment of the city tennis courts on Fifth Street a few years back, MCHS has been without a tennis team. But thanks to the efforts of the Jennings family and MCHS athletic director Pat Clark, Jennings played enough matches and beat enough opponents to earn a trip to the IHSA Class A sectional held last week at Centralia.
In fact, through his first 11 matches leading up to the sectional, Jennings was unbeaten with an 11-0 record.
At Centralia when the 1 through 17 seedings were named, Jennings was seeded fifth. Just how tenuous the seedings were was evidenced early on as the No. 1 seed, John Tran of Salem was bounced from the tournament by the No. 11 seed Brennon Cox of Herrin in the first round.
Jennings’ first round opponent was Truman Carnine, the No. 8i seed, of Mt. Vernon and Jennings rolled over him 6-0, 6-0.
Next up for “Team Tate” was No. 2 seed Mason Jones of Salem. This match was a little more taxing as Jennings won 6-3, 6-1.
Now into the semifinals, Jennings was matched up with Brisdon Quaglia of Herrin, the No. 10 seed. This one was epic. Quaglia eventually prevailed in the grueling match 7-6 (9), 6-1 to advance to the finals.
Jennings then proceeded to the third-place match and beat Francisco Neto of Mt. Vernon 6-0, 6-1 to advance to the state finals as the Top 4 finishers moved on.
Quaglia lost 6-1, 3-6 and 5-7 to Centralia’s Andrew Martin, the 14th seed in the championship match.
For the Jennings family, it has been a labor of love, and they wish to express their gratitude to Clark and the area schools that saw fit to schedule matches for Jennings.
Seedings and brackets were to be released Wednesday, May 24, after press time with first round play beginning today, Thursday, May 25 at Palatine High School and the surrounding area courts.
Congratulations and best of luck to Jennings, his mom Betsy and dad his Keith.
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