By Thomas Selllers Jr.
MURFREESBORO – Brighton Head Tennis Coach Kim Greer knew his time as the coach of Cardinals Dakota “Cody” Strickland and Austin Russell would conclude on the courts of the Adams Tennis Complex in Murfreesboro.
All Greer wanted was to see his duo play a couple of matches on Thursday and compete for the championship the following day in the TSSAA Large Class State Boys’ Double Tennis tournament.
Strickland and Russell were on pace to make history Thursday morning winning the opening set 7-5 over Rhea County’s Kyle Shaver and Brandon Newell.
But the pair from Rhea County bounced back to take the next two sets 6-4 and 6-2 to advance to the Semifinals. The Brighton careers of Strickland and Russell came to a conclusion.
“It’s been a fantastic four years watching them grow academically and athletically,” Greer said. “Hopefully as I look at it right now, they’re definitely in this match. They’re very competitive. They’re good friends. They do everything together. They’ll go to college together at Freed Hardeman. Both are going on the same scholarship. Hopefully they’ll play doubles there.”
Greer’s optimism during the first set was validated with Russell protecting the net with overhead smashes. Strickland’s serving kept Shaver and Newell off balance in the opening moments.
Then as the match progressed, the Rhea County duo adjusted enough to win big points and maintain momentum to advance to play Tennessee High School’s Hagan Oakley and David Bieger.
Brighton’s Strickland and Russell will go down as one of the most decorated pairs in Cardinal Tennis history.
The winners of back-to-back district and Regional titles will take their talents to FHU this fall.
Both leave Brighton High School with several academic and athletic honors.
The best friends reached Murfreesboro multiple times and were moments away from making school history as the first Cardinals to advance in the State Tournament.
“What they’ve done here has been incredible,” Greer concluded. “I’m very proud of them and know they will continue to make Brighton proud.”