LYNN HAVEN — Davis Meeks looks around and sees an Arnold boys tennis team that bears little resemblance to last year's version that competed in the Class 1A state tournament.
Meeks is the lone returning Marlin from a year ago, when he served as Arnold's No. 1 player in singles and doubles. Now a sophomore and a few inches taller, Meeks looks like he's primed for another run toward the postseason.
"I won the district title last year, so another district title would be really good," Meeks said Thursday following a doubles victory against Mosley in a road duel. "And I want to go back to state, and as a team that would be great. There is a lot of work left on my part to help the team."
Meeks added a No. 1 singles win for Arnold to earn both of his team's points in a 5-2 loss against the Dolphins. Meeks, who teamed with older brother Hudson in doubles last year, paired with Tyler Goodson for a victory in their first doubles match together.
Goodson previously played at South Walton while being home-schooled, and he qualified for state in doubles as a sophomore playing with Riley Colton with the Seahawks. He joined Arnold as a senior student this year and will play an integral role on the team as the Marlins' No. 2 player moving forward.
"I practiced with Davis at Seaside, so I knew him before I came to Arnold," Goodson said. "I knew the switch over would be no trouble at all. I made friends with guys on the team before I even knew they played tennis. It's fun. We're all good friends."
Goodson also has an intriguing family tie with Sloane Stephens, the up-and-coming American professional who ousted Serena Williams at this year's Australian Open. Stephens is Goodson's half-sister's sister.
Goodson was quick to point out that Stephens could beat him "left-handed and blindfolded."
Mosley's boys showcased their superior depth in collecting the team win. Jake Moody and Grey Talkington each won singles matches before teaming to win their No. 2 doubles match.
The girls' showdown played out similarly. Arnold's top players, sisters Bianca and Carla Biglione, cruised to 8-0 wins in their respective singles matches and then paired up to win 8-0 in doubles.
Mosley didn't lose another girls match, however, and earned a 4-3 team victory. Emily Whitlock and Sam Snodgrass each won their singles and doubles matches for the Dolphins.
"Our depth really carried us through, and I'm really proud of the kids," Mosley coach Ann Talkington said. "They played wholeheartedly."
Talkington also noted that Seth Koller, Mosley's No. 2 player on the boys team, came into Thursday's matches with one win already under his belt for the day. Implementing an ingenious scheme with his coach's help, Koller landed himself a date for the prom.
Bailey Anne Corbin, a sophomore on Mosley's girls team, was sent to grab ice at her coach's behest. Corbin discovered a laminated prom invitation from Koller frozen inside an ice block, and she had to shatter the block to access it.
"He wrote, 'Now that we've broken the ice, will you go to prom with me?'" Talkington said with a wide smile across her face.
Mosley teammate Ashley Sheffield couldn't help but grin, too.
"It was so cute," she said.
Mosley boys 5, Arnold 2
- Singles: Sam Bennett (M) lost to Davis Meeks 6-2, 0-6; Seth Koller (M) d. Tyler Goodson 7-5, 6-1; Grey Talkington (M) d. Taylor Jackson 6-1, 6-2; Jake Moody (M) d. Raj Patel 6-1, 6-3; Connor Morrow (M) d. Jacob Blythe 8-1.
- Doubles: Bennett-Koller lost to Meeks-Goodson 8-5; Moody-Talkington d. Jackson-Patel 8-1.
Mosley girls 4, Arnold 3
- Singles: Jana Miles (M) lost to Bianca Biglione 8-0; Ashley Sheffield (M) lost to Carla Biglione 8-0; Emily Whitlock (M) d. Kristen Sleeth 8-1; Sam Snodgrass (M) d. Savannah Suhaler 8-2; Rachel Bates (M) d. Izzy Nield 8-1.
- Doubles: Miles-Sheffield lost to Biglione-Biglione 8-0; Snodgrass-Whitlock d. Sleeth-Suhalar 8-3.