Night sight: Polk rallies to oust Elkin in opening round of 1A tennis playoffs

Perhaps the best comeback in Polk County tennis history ended Tuesday and no one even cheered.

Mainly because no one gathered around Court 1 at Polk County High School could actually see what had just happened.

But soon enough the assembled Wolverine fans and players did burst into cheers, as Sarah and Elizabeth Vitale emerged from near-darkness with a win that clinched a remarkable 5-4 victory for Polk County over Elkin in the opening round of the state 1A girls tennis playoffs.

Nearby football fieldhouse lights and the rising moon offered the primary illumination as the Vitale sisters fought back from a 5-2 deficit, their comeback mirroring the larger one that Polk County’s team made after singles play.

Two tiebreaker losses helped give Elkin (7-7) a 4-2 advantage after the end of the singles matches. That meant Polk (10-2) had to sweep the three doubles pairings in order to notch its first playoff win since 2017.

Sarah Vitale teamed with sister Elizabeth Vitale to deliver the match-winning point at No. 1 doubles

And that, the Wolverines did. Tali Thompson and Mia Wolfe started the comeback with a dominant 8-1 win at No. 3 doubles. Bella Sheffron and Cate Brown followed with an 8-4 win at No. 2 doubles, evening the team score and turning all eyes to the duel on Court 1.

The Vitales started their charge winning four straight games to take a 6-5 advantage. Elkin’s Ella Kleinheksel and Elissa Dickerson finally broke through for a game to make it 6-6, but the Vitales held on in a long service game to grab a 7-6 edge.

With fans and players straining to see, the Vitales broke Elkin’s serve at love to end the match.

“It was where you could hardly see the ball. I don’t recommend it,” said Polk County head coach Tracy Becker. “It was unfortunate.

“They dug deep. They really pushed. I’m very, very proud of them.”

Polk’s resolve began to show in singles. Brown battled illness on Monday and wasn’t 100 percent when she arrived Tuesday, so Becker turned to senior Allie Quoyle to play No. 6 singles, and Quoyle delivered a key point with a 4-6, 6-0, 10-3 tiebreaker win, her comeback helping ignite Polk’s broader charge.

Wolfe delivered Polk’s other singles point with a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 5 singles. Sarah Vitale lost a tough 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 tiebreaker decision at No. 2 singles and Tali Thompson fell 4-6, 6-1, 10-8 tiebreaker at No. 4.

Polk County will return to the court on Wednesday for its second-round match, hosting Bishop McGuinness (11-2). The Villians handed North Stokes a 6-3 defeat on Tuesday. Wednesday’s match will begin at 2 p.m.

“Cate Brown was sick yesterday, so I didn’t play to play her in singles and doubles,” Becker said. “So I put Allie in hoping she could get a win, and she did. I think that helped with Cate bring fresh to help Bella in doubles.

“This means the world to us because this is the first time we’ve been in the playoffs since I’ve been a coach. So this is exciting new territory. We’ll see where it goes (Wednesday).”

1. Ella Kleinheksel (E) d. Bella Sheffron 7-5, 6-2; 2. Kendall Eads (E) d. Sarah Vitale 5-7, 6-3, 10-4 tiebrealer; 3. Elissa Dickerson (E) d. Elizabeth Vitale 6-4, 6-4; 4. Jocelyn Johnson (E) d. Tali Thompson 4-6, 6-1, 10-8 tiebreaker; 5. Mia Wolfe (PC) d. Diana Rodriguez Gonzalez 6-1, 6-1; 6. Allie Quoyle (PC) d. Molly Adams 4-6, 6-0, 10-3 tiebreaker.

1. Vitale-Vitale (PC) d. Kleinheksel-Dickerson 8-6; 2. Sheffron-Cate Brown (PC) d. Eads-Johnson 8-4; 3. Wolfe-Thompson (PC) d. Gonzalez-Adams 8-1.

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