By Jacob Cole For the TimesDaily Link to article on TimesDaily website
FLORENCE — The state titles continued this season for Lilly Holmes.
Florence’s No. 1 player cruised to another Class 6A singles state championship, adding to the two singles and one doubles titles she won in previous years. She also led the Falcons to a second-place finish in the team standings at the state tournament and has been named the TimesDaily’s Girls Tennis Player of the Year for a third straight season.
Holmes, along with other players of the year, will be honored at a June 15 banquet where the TimesDaily Boys and Girls Athlete of the Year will be announced along with the top boys and girls athletic programs.
Holmes, who defeated Homewood’s Maggie White 6-1, 6-2 in the Class 6A singles final, said she was motivated by more than just winning another individual state championship this season.
“I focused on my health this past season so I could perform for my team and myself to the best of my ability,” she said. “I’m also very motivated and focused so I can perform well for my future coach.”
Holmes is verbally committed to play at Chattanooga, but she has one more year at Florence before moving on to college tennis.
Holmes said the game is always pressured filled, but her team and family help lift that pressure.
“I always feel pressure to perform well being the No. 1, but having teammates and family who support me and cheer for me always brought up my confidence,” Holmes said. “In the grand scheme of things my team, coaches and my family kept me calm and made me feel as little pressure as possible.”
A moment that shaped the latest state title run was a loss she suffered in the finals of sectionals. After nursing tendinitis in her shoulder for three weeks, Holmes lost in the sectionals finals before heading to the state tournament. After losing for the first time since her seventh-grade season, Holmes bounced back to win her third straight state championship.
Holmes almost added another doubles state championship as she and Edy Smith advanced to the finals before losing 6-4, 7-6 to Homewood.
Holmes gives credit to her coaches for helping keep her focused all season.
“Eddy and Donna Garner were always at my fence when I needed to calm down,” Holmes said. “They’re such genuine and caring people. It really motivated me to do my best for them and to not disappoint them even though they say that’s impossible.”
Holmes was dominating during the regular season, losing only one game. She has one more year to go at Florence, but she is excited for her next step in the college ranks.
“I will play for Coach Chad Camper at UTC and his awesome team of girls,” Holmes said. “I couldn’t be more excited.”