50th Anniv of Girls State Tennis - St. Mary's is Best Team Ever

Turkeys won Five Titles, 1988-92

Tuesday, May 20, 2014 - by B.B. Branton
Undefeated St. Mary's Tennis Team: The 2014 edition of "Turkey Tennis" hopes to bring home a seventh state title this week.
Undefeated St. Mary's Tennis Team: The 2014 edition of "Turkey Tennis" hopes to bring home a seventh state title this week.
- photo by St. Mary's

As three girls teams - Baylor (D-II AA), Knox. Webb (D-II A) and Ravenwood (D-I AAA) -  are favored to repeat as champions this week and as girls’ tennis celebrates its 50th anniversary state tournament, let’s look at a few of the great teams for half a century.

St. Mary’s (72-3) … won five straight championships, 1988-92, and gets the nod as the best with six players having national junior accolades and then played at top level D-I programs ... More on the Turkeys (yep, that’s the school nickname) later … Note: the 2014 St, Mary’s team (8-0) is in the semis in D-II A vs. St. Cecilia

* 2014 Baylor Team (12-1 in 2014)  … D-II AA state champs, 2011-2013 … four seniors – Samantha Caswell, Harper Caswell, Maggie Crumbliss and Morgan McCall - have led the Red Raiders to an impressive 64-4 record the last five years … three straight D-II AA state crowns (2011-12-13), three DecoTurf national tournament championships (2011-2012-2013) and four Chattanooga Rotary titles (2011-12-13-14) …

Samantha Caswell has signed scholarship papers with UTC, twin sister Harper is a preferred walk-on at Furman and Crumbliss will play at Sewanee.

“This Baylor team not only won three straight state titles in Tennessee, but has gone to the DecoTurf tournament in Kentucky and posted wins against state champs from Florida and Georgia among others which I believe sets them apart,” said Baylor assistant coach Park Lockrow.

* 2014 Ravenwood Team (10-0 in 2014) … D-I AAA state champs, 2010-2013 …. Raptors are going for their fifth straight title … 5-year win-loss record of 88-6 … current senior Katie Fitt is headed to BYU in the fall … Ravenwood team alums include Lauren Cabellero, a Samford junior and Jacquline Curtsinger, a freshman at Rensselaer … team GPA in 2013 was 4.09 … a fifth title will tie the Raptors with St. Mary’s (1988-92)

* GPS (49-2) as  D-II AA state champs, 2006-07-08 … 3x state singles champ Claire Bartlett (UVA/Florida) led the way … recent Wofford graduate Sarah Evans (2010 state singles champ) played No.1 for the Terriers and was on four GPS state title teams.

2006 team had Bartlett and Evans along with Grace Robinette (UTC), Courtney Pare and Margaret Brock … Bruisers edged two-time defending champion Knox Webb, 4-3, in a thrilling, six hour match that went from outdoors to indoors and finished past midnight … Evans, Pare and Brock were all 8th graders on that team and won their singles matches … Pare and Brock clinched the title with a doubles win

* Knox. Webb … D-II AA state champs, 2002-04-05 … Whitney Chappell (Auburn, 03 state singles champ and high school All-American) … Berkeley Brock (N.C. State, won a record five state doubles crowns, 2002-06 … Elizabeth Googe (Cornell, won four doubles titles with Brock, 2002-05) ... had good battles with St. Agnes and GPS …

* Oak Ridge (38-4, 1996-1998) … state champs in 1997 (one division) and 1998 … lost in semis to Baylor in 1996 … led by 3x state singles champ Megan Dunnigan (Furman,  4x Southern Conference Player of the Year) … Dunnigan never lost a high school singles match, including beating two-time state champ Lorraine Bittles (Brentwood Academy) in the 1996 state semis when Dunnigan was a sophomore … Jill Buckley (Kentucky, 1999 state singles champ) … team had good depth … the Ridgers beat defending champion Baylor, 4-3, in 1997 state finals in last year with all schools in one division … Chris Carpenter coached OR to a 38-4 record for three years; 1996-98.

* First Champion ... David Lipscomb … 1964 & 1966 ...  worth a look at the first team champion … playing in a format where team points were earned with individual wins in singles and doubles, the Lions won the inaugural title in 1964 and won it again two years later … Lynne Gregory won the singles title in 1964 with a win against Notre Dames Laura Dupont who would go on to be an All-American at North Carolina and play on the pro tour … Lipscomb’s Mufit Ellis won state singles and Nancy Boyce and Paula Hembrose won state doubles in 1966

* St. Mary’s (72-3) … state champs, 1988-1992 … the current state team format was put in place in 1988.

The Turkeys were an impressive 72-3 in that five-year run … losses were to Baylor to open the 1989 season, lost once in 1991 and once in 1992 to Hutchison with four starters out … one way to measure the greatness of a team is how the players did at the next level.

Six played at strong D-I teams … in 1996, one (Lisa Pugliese) has a national championship ring (Florida) … another (Wendy Sacks) was on the national runner-up team (Stanford) the same year … and yet another (Meredith Chiles)  played No.1 for the No.10 team (Vandy) … all were eighth graders in 1988.

*Wendy Sacks Sklaver (1988-1992) … played No.6-7 at Stanford as Cardinal was NCAA runner-up in 1996 to Fla ... National indoor singles runner-up in 18s … ranked No.1 in the South and No.12 nationally in 18s …. No.12 nationally in 14s singles … national runner-up in 14s doubles clay and hard courts with St. Mary’s teammate Lisa Pugliese … won TSSAA state singles and doubles titles … went to UT med school and is a doctor in Calif.

*Meredith Chiles (1998-92) … played No.1 (singles and doubles) at Vandy on the 1996 team that was No.10 in the nation … Academic All-SEC … TSSAA state singles and doubles (w/Sacks) champion … reached second round NCAAs in singles and round of 16 in doubles in 1996 … ranked No. 25 in singles and No.26 in doubles in 1996 … St. Mary’s grad Deena Raja played No.5-6 at Vandy with Meredith ... Junior Rankings: Top 20 nationally in 16s … lives in North Carolina.

*Lisa Pugliese (1988) … played No.6 on the 1988 team as an eighth grader then moved to Fla. … No.4 on U.  of Fla. NCAA championship team (1996) … All-SEC at No.4 singles, 1995-96 … also member of NCAA runner-up team in 1993-94 … Junior rankings: 16s – No.1 in Fla … No.2  nationally … runner-up with Wendy Sacks at national doubles 14s clay courts and national doubles 14s hardcourts … she and Sacks were top 5 nationally in 14s doubles.

*Taylor Holden Taylor (1988-90) … member of three St. Mary’s championship teams … played Nos. 1-3 at Virginia … member of excellent recruiting class of 1991 as Cavaliers were No. 22 in 1993 and No. 29 in 1992 … UVa team MVP in 1992 … later would be head coach at U. of Memphis as well as St. George’s and St. Mary’s … Junior Rankings: top 50 nationally in 14s … nationally No.10 in 18s doubles with Audra Keller (Bartlett HS) who would later win Girls national 18s singles and doubles and be top 80 in the world on the pro tour … Taylor was consistently in top 30 (Southern) and top 100 (nationally) in singles … works for Racquet Club of Memphis.

*Elaina Fulgham (1988-89) … won her final high school singles match which clinched the school’s second state title … she beat Baylor’s Melissa Kadrie who had beaten Fulgham in the first match of the season which Baylor won, 6-3… Played four years at Temple U.  … All-tournament in Atlantic 10 in 1992.  

*Deena Raja (1992) … played No. 2 singles behind Wendy Sacks on St. Mary’s 1992 team … No.5-6 in singles and No.3 doubles for Vandy’s 1996 team which was No.10 in the nation … college teammate of St. Mary’s alum Meredith Chiles … Junior Rankings: Deena was top 8 (South) and top 50 (nationally) in 18s.

Far from a one era championship program, St. Mary’s won it in 2001 when D-II had one division and this year’s team is undefeated (8-0) with dreams of bringing home a seventh school tennis title.

St. Mary’s Five State Titles

1988 (16-0) … beat Baylor (4-1) in finals with three eighth graders, a sophomore and a junior …

Eighth graders were Wendy Sacks, Meredith Chiles and Lisa Pugliese … Taylor Holden was a sophomore and Elaina Fulgham (played No.1) was a junior … Sacks (1991) and Chiles (1990) won state singles titles and a doubles together in 1989 …

“When we returned to campus after winning that first championship in Nashville, the school had a big assembly program for us and the students cheered loudly as we had won the school’s first state championship in any sport. It was a big deal and we were so excited that we had won it for a small girls school in Memphis.” – Taylor Holden Taylor

 1989 (14-1) … lost to Baylor, 6-3, to start the season and then won 14 straight, including a 4-1 win against Baylor in the finals … Sacks played No.1 … and won state doubles with Chiles …

1990 (14-0) … Sacks, Chiles and Holden played 1-2-3 while Melissa Goldate and Stacey Goldate joined the starting lineup at Nos. 4-5 … Chiles won state singles crown … first school to win three straight …

1991 – (15-1) … again, the Turkeys beat a previously unbeaten Baylor team (12-1) in the semis … Sacks defeated Chiles in state singles finals.

1992 – (13-1) … Sacks was a senior and joined by Deena Raja at No.2 singles … won a fifth and final state title … 72-3 for five years

Player Comments

Taylor Holden Taylor

"Since tennis is an individual sport it can be a very lonely sport as you travel to various tournaments often times by yourself. I am so glad to have been part of teams at St. Mary’s and Virginia to be able to share the tough times and the victories with teammates. We all grew up together in Memphis playing each other summer after summer so being on the same team in high school was wonderful.”

Elaina Fulgham

“St. Mary’s was all about excellence and I would not be the person I am today if I had not attended St. Mary’s. Giving back was important to me and helping the team win that first state championship for us as well as the entire school and seeing everyone so excited meant a lot.

“I am grateful to Mike Cahill who completely changed my game after my sophomore year to serve and volley type game and helped me become a better player emotionally and mentally. And to my parents who were so supportive of my tennis career growing up. Driving me to practices and tournaments and hitting hundreds of practice balls to help me prepare for matches.”

Fulgham Gives Kudos To Baylor

“We had some wars with Baylor and win or lose their players and coaches were the gold standard of sportsmanship. I have great admiration for those Baylor teams.”

“In my senior year (1989) I lost that a match to Michelle Kadrie in that 6-3 team loss to open that season. But I was able to beat her in the state finals to help us win a second title. Michelle was as gracious when she beat me as she was when she lost to me in a match which clinched the championship for us two months later.”

Michelle Kadrie died in an automobile accident at the age of 16 a couple of weeks after the 1989 state tournament.

contact B.B. Branton at william.branton@comcast.net


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