Jun. 10—Newton County senior Lee Hill rose to any challenge Cougars tennis coach Chad Bond handed him.
Hill, who won the MHSAA Class 4A state championship in boys doubles in 2019 along with Daylon Nance, made it to the second round with the team in boys doubles and actually defeated New Albany alongside partner Cade Cooley. The team lost to New Albany, however, in the second round, and Hill was then moved alongside Maggie Bounds in mixed doubles for the individual competition.
In mixed doubles, he and Bounds advanced to the Class 4A state semifinal round, in which they again faced New Albany but were defeated after a 3 1/2-hour match. Bond described Hill as a relentless competitor and said the playoff atmosphere raised his game in both boys and mixed doubles.
"He's at his best when the competition is at his best, when the stakes are the highest " Bond explained. "This year against New Albany, we had to put one of our older guys (Hill) with one of our younger guys, less experienced guys (Cooley) to win a court in boys doubles. New Albany stacked their boys doubles, so they ended up playing New Albany's No. 1s and still ended up beating them."
Because of his performance in both the team and individual playoffs, Hill was named the Premier Preps male tennis Player of the Year.
"It feels good," Hill said. "I've had my coaches and teammates and all of my friends and family pushing me to be the best tennis player I could be, so it feels good to be recognized for that."
Hill credited Cooley for that second-round win in the team competition against New Albany.
"He played the match of his life," Hill said. "He was amazing."
With Bounds, Hill said in addition to strong play in that semifinal match she was also a calming influence on him.
"I had an amazing partner in her," Hill said. "She kept me together when I was falling apart."
The pair lost in three sets, and Hill said the entire 3 1/2 hours were intense.
"We'd break them and hold our serve, and they'd break ours... it just kept going back and forth," Hill said. "When we finally got to that last point I was completely drained. My shirt was probably 3 pounds of sweat. I was drenched."
Bond said Hill also had blood running down one of his legs after diving for a ball during the match.
"They lost to the eventual state champions in three sets, and when he came off the court that last time, I told him that's what you're supposed to look like when you come off the court," Bond said. "All over the state in 4A tennis, they all know who he is."
Hill is heading to Jones College to play soccer for the next two years, but he said he's also grateful for the time he spent playing football and tennis.
"I would probably put tennis and football right next to soccer," Hill said. "Any sport I'm playing I'm fully invested and focused on it."