MURFREESBORO, Tenn. — Ensley Collins was emotional Friday afternoon.
She had just lost in the Class AA singles state final to cap her first season at Walker Valley, after two years of getting defeated in the semifinals — doubles in 2021, singles in 2022 — while playing for Baylor. Like any athlete immediately reflecting on a setback, there were moments Collins wished she could have back, plays that could have been done better.
But in reality, she's happy. She's happy with her current situation at the Cleveland school. Happy with the team she's on. Happy for the ride she'd just completed at the Adams Tennis Complex on the final day of the TSSAA Spring Fling.
"I think me and my dad (Denny) were talking about this before the match, that win, lose or draw this match, I have nothing to be ashamed of. I have nothing to be sad about," she said. "I've really enjoyed my junior year. Of course, I'll get the opportunity to come back and go for it again, senior year, but right now I feel really good about where I'm at; I feel like the Lord has placed me here for a reason, and so I'm just trying to live every moment for him.
"But I'm excited. I'm super happy with Walker Valley and being on the tennis team, and it's been a good year."
Even before this season, Walker Valley coach Jordan Willcutt was familiar with Collins, having coached her in middle school. That made the transition pretty seamless when she chose to transfer from Baylor, and the addition of Collins raised the program's floor.
"I think my boys' teams in the past have really benefited from having a really strong player, because everyone else has that person to see, to understand where they need to be," Willcutt said. "Now they've seen Ensley can play at that level, it gives everyone a bar to reach on top of the fact that you're hitting with them at practice every day, because it's automatically going to raise your own level.
"Having someone as sweet as her and someone as driven as her around the team, it really does lift the whole team."
Spring Fling state tennis on May 26, 2023
Collins' 6-2, 6-4 loss to Farragut's Riley Cassity, who repeated as state champion, was part of a final day in Murfreesboro with no individual state champs in tennis from the Chattanooga area for the first time since 1995.
In Class A boys' singles, Arts & Sciences' Ethan Porterfield's bid to become the Patriots' second state champion — Stan Goss won the Class A/AA title in 2003 to become the first — fell a win short for the second consecutive year with a 6-2, 6-4 loss to Tobias Mandeville of Merrol Hyde.
In Division II-AA girls' doubles, Baylor's Gabby Czarnecki and Sloane Proffitt fell 6-1, 6-2 to Knoxville Catholic's Eleni Liakonis and Lillie Murphy. On the boys' side in DII-AA doubles, two days after being part of McCallie's fourth straight state title team, the Blue Tornado's Gabe Getz and Henry Imorde lost in three sets to Montgomery Bell Academy's Martin Grier and Daniel Torre, who won 6-3, 2-6, 6-4.
Collins hopes to help change the area's tennis fortunes next year, vowing to take only the Memorial Day holiday weekend off before getting back on the court Tuesday in preparation for the summer travel tennis season.
"You take a few seconds to feel bad about today, but then you've got to snap out of it," she said. "For sure this match will be in the back of my mind at the start of next school year."
Contact Gene Henley at [email protected].
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