A (nother) Fairytale Ending
"There might have been 15 Tech fans there Saturday among 600 or 700, and although they were full-throated, the Yellow Jacket voices were drowned in a sea of Crimson Tide.
When weather forced the Alabama-Tech match indoors, "it was deafening. The atmosphere was incredible. The umpires were trying to control it just so the girls could serve," said the Tech head coach.
"We hadn't really seen an environment like that all year. Their players definitely fed off of it. Our girls were really struggling to hear me, even during the changeovers."
The Jackets hadn't seen that kind of fuss largely because, frankly, that's not typical for college tennis. Yet the Alabama women were ramped up and on the verge of extending the best season they've had in several years."
"For it to come down to that moment to prolong her college career, and our season . . . she's had some physical struggles this season, and some confidence issues," Shelton said. "She didn't have a ton of good matches to draw from, to look back on and think, 'I can do this.' Caroline had a lot of hard work, though, and I think she leaned on that."
With so much in the balance, Lilley at that point had a 6-6 record in dual meets. She'd gone 3-4 in an injury-plagued conference season, and there was all that noise, noise, noise.
"I was kind of giving myself a little pep talk, telling myself that if we lose it had been a great match," Shelton said. "And I was going to be happy for Jenny Mainz, the Alabama coach. I know her well and respect her."
"And Lilley stole it with a backhand down the line and past Guarachi for a 7-5 win in the final set. Down 5-3 and in a cauldron, she won four straight games to send Tech to Athens.
She, "played the best tennis of her college career," Shelton said. "That's the most pressure we've felt all season. It was do or die.""
"Catherine Harrison will soon be in the thick of things for the Jackets.
She's probably the top recruit in perhaps the best class Shelton has ever recruited. The incoming freshman class of four is ranked No. 2 in the nation. Harrison, who last summer played in the Wimbledon girls singles and doubles championships, traveled from the Memphis area to get a sense of what lies ahead.
"It was an incredible environment. I wish I could get all the prospects in there to see something like that . . . It surely didn't disappoint.""