MURFREESSBORO - Not a singles player or doubles team from Tipton County has ever won a tennis match at the state tournament. 

The Brighton High senior doubles team of Austin Russell and Cody Strickland nearly ended that drought Thursday morning. 

Russell and Strickland, both seniors who have signed with Freed-Hardeman, won the first set and had their chances in the second set to close things out in the DI-Large Class quarterfinals, but they ultimately lost in three sets (5-7, 6-4, 6-2) to Kyle Shaver and Brandon Newell of Rhea County. 

Russell and Strickland were up 4-3 in the second set before dropping the final three games of the set. 

"They're upset right now because they thought they should be playing in the semifinals, but big picture they're one of the top eight teams in the state," said Brighton coach Kim Greer. 

Strickland and Russell, who made state last year as well, said they faced some serious competition. 

"There were a lot of nerves jumping around," Strickland said. "I thought we played the best we could."

The doubles team went undefeated this year before today's match, including wins over Houston and Collierville. 

"They play better competition," Russell said. "It was the longest match we played all year. I think we ran out of gas. It's tough because that was our goal, to win a match. We tried our best."

Russell and Strickland were wearing lavender shirts in honor of Gary Ballard, Russell's grandfather who died of cancer three weeks ago. He was a regular at Brighton's tennis matches. 

"He never missed one, he was always were," Russell said. "I know he was proud and I'm sure he was watching."

Jeff Ireland is The Leader's sports editor. To contact him, call 901-476-7116 or email​