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Horton plays his way onto 4A All-state tennis team

Posted: May 29, 2014 11:36 a.m.
Updated: May 30, 2014 5:00 a.m.

One of the most memorable seasons in the relatively short history of the Lugoff-Elgin boys’ tennis program came to an end last week with sophomore first singles player Hunter Horton competing and earning 4A All-state honors at the 4A-3A state individual tournament.
L-E head coach Edward Rickwood nominated both his top two singles players in Horton and senior Hunter Johnson --- both of whom finished with 13-2 records --- into the event. Horton was the only one of the pair selected.
Horton had an unfortunate draw in facing Jeffery Dayton from St. James High School in his opening round match. Dayton is the sixth-ranked player in the state while Horton is three slots below in ninth. “Judging by the small crowd that gathered around our court, and by the number of courts that quickly became empty around us as other matches concluded,” Rickwood said, “ours was the match to watch.”
The pair battled with long rallies early on with Horton taking a 5-2 lead. But Dayton stormed to take the first set in a tie break, 7-6.  Early in the second set, Dayton broke Horton’s serve and went on to the 6-4 win as Horton was sent to the consolation bracket.
After a break of some 45 minutes, Horton was back in action taking on Mitchell Brockmann from Hilton Head. “Hunter got off to a great start.  He was out-hitting and out-maneuvering his opponent,” Rickwood said of the pairing.
With Horton holding a comfortable 3-0 lead, Brockmann suddenly became upset after Hunter called a ball long and immediately asked for a line judge.  A tournament judge came to the court and asked that the pair work it out since the complaint was about one shot in the middle of a game.
“Brockmann apparently hits better angry because his game came alive,” Rickwood said. But it was too little too late as Horton went on to take an 8-3 win in a pro set.
Horton’s third match came against Aaron Newland from Bluffton. “Aaron did not show anything special during warm-ups, but he definitely brought it for game time.  He quickly broke Hunter, and then he showed a very devastating serve,” Rickwood said of the Monday contest.
Newland led, 4-3, when Horton finally started getting hold of the serve.  After breaking back, Horton had a little more pep in his step and pop on his shots in taking an 8-4 victory.
Less than an hour later, Horton had his fourth and final match of the day, an elimination encounter with Thomas Bryan from Lexington, an opponent Horton had faced on several occasions.
The pair have played quite a few times.  The last match they played came on a clay surface and was won by Horton. The hard court made no difference as the Demon lived to see another day by blanking Bryan, 8-0.
Horton returned to the West Columbia tennis facility last Tuesday, knowing he already had earned All-State status. His Tuesday match was against Socastee’s Britton Bellamy. 
“Just like most of the other players at this level, they knew each other well,” Rickwood said. “Watching them play, you could see that it could go either way.”
 The first half of the match saw the two exchange breaks of serves but having lost his serve first, it felt like Horton was playing catch up the entire time. With the match knotted at 4-4, Bellamy was able to break Horton and hold his own serve in going on to the 8-4 win.
“As a 10th grader,” Rickwood said of Horton, “Hunter is still growing to become an even more imposing force in the coming years. We plan on returning next year and get a little closer to that top spot.”
Demons are winners in the classroom, as well: After a third consecutive trip to the state tennis playoffs, the Lugoff-Elgin tennis team picked up more honors at the school’s senior awards day as each graduating Demon tennis player ---- James Carraway, Hunter Johnson, Chance Sheorn, Justin Tillman and Nathan Tyson --- were named as Honored Athletes with each of the five posting a grade point average of 3.5 or better.

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