A cold towel found its way to Tristan McGarity just in time for her turnaround on the tennis court.
Her singles match would stretch to nearly three hours and push the Jefferson High School senior to the brink of something she had not done all year — lose.
“Mom brought me a cold towel. I put it over my face. I knew I could not lose. I had to win it for my team,” McGarity said. “We were already playing this long, there was no reason to give up now. I was not going to let her have that win over me.”
Her toughest contest of the year arrived on the Lady Dragons’ final, regular season home match against Rabun County on April 11.
McGarity won the first set 7-6 and then dropped one, 4-6.
In the third and final set, McGarity got down.
The rest of her teammates had finished their matches. Friends came, left, and returned. Her mom, Tammy, remained and motivated, as she usually does.
“We had a bunch of people stopping by, seeing how I was doing,” McGarity said. “Everyone ended up leaving, all the other matches were done with but mine was still going.”
She got down 4-2 in the third set before the comeback.
McGarity put away her bronchitis, the asthma, the anxiety.
“My coach said, ‘It’s senior night,’” McGarity said. “I can’t lose on my senior night.’ This girl, I knew she was about to get me, I knew she was. She put up a good, good fight, she was a great opponent, the best one I’d seen yet.”
But her opponent’s best could not stop JHS’ no. 1 singles player from adding another win to her undefeated record, which grew Monday to 10-0 with victory over her Greene County opponent.
The Lady Dragons are undefeated overall, with the seven teammates earning the no. 1 seed entering the region 8-AA tournament Wednesday. (Results were unavailable at press time.) The team also secured a state playoff berth.
“We want to win that tournament,” she said. “I think our team can really pull it out. We have a strong team this year. I love my team and could not ask for a better one.”
McGarity has embraced her role as the senior leader of a group that is fairly young and new to high school tennis.
She described her own advance from doubles play as a freshman to the no. 3, no. 2 and now no. 1 singles player.
“I feel like a lot more pressure has been put on me this year,” she said. “I’m handling it pretty swell so far. I get really nervous going into matches knowing I really can’t lose.”
But she works hard to keep the nerves from showing, gauges her opponent during warm ups and goes from there into competition.
Her coach said that intensity rarely wanes.
“I have enjoyed coaching Tristan these past few years and I have watched her mature as an athlete,” coach Mike Paul said. “Her determination and ‘never say die’ attitude has been a big asset.”
McGarity will continue playing next year. She verbally committed to Piedmont College a few weeks ago and does not plan on having an official signing until tennis season is over.
As for her favorite shot in her favorite game, there is one shot she relies on most.
“I have a nasty slice,” she said. “It will get them really hard…that’s my pull out, that’s my weapon. Whenever I feel like I need to win the point, I pull out a slice.”