April 29, 2014

Can’t win ’em all: Colts fall to St. Pius X

Murray girls done; CHS boys advance

By Marty Kirkland and Chris Whitfield

— VARNELL — Just as in other matches this season, there were handshakes and hugs awaiting the members of Coahulla Creek High School’s boys tennis team as they walked off the court Monday.

Unfortunately for the Colts, this time they were of the comforting rather than the congratulating variety.

Coahulla Creek’s undefeated season came to a sudden end in the second round of the Class 3A state playoffs via a 5-0 loss to Atlanta’s St. Pius X. It was the first loss in 21 matches this year for the Colts, who won the Region 5-3A title and picked up the first state tournament victory in the program’s three-year history with last week’s first-round win over White County.

It was a breakthrough year that Coahulla Creek’s seniors believe is a step toward something greater for the program.

“It’s pretty cool to say 20-1 my senior year,” No. 3 singles player Alex Jarjoura said. “It’s great saying that.”

While Coahulla Creek was breaking through this season, St. Pius X (12-8), the No. 3 seed from Region 6, was doing what it has often done in pushing through for a deep run in a state bracket. The Lions have won four Georgia High School Association titles in boys tennis, although the most recent one came in 2004.

They move on to the quarterfinals and will travel for a matchup with either Region 7 champion North Hall or Region 6 No. 2 seed Blessed Trinity.

“One of the first words we exchanged today, (my opponent) asked where I trained at,” Coahulla Creek No. 1 singles player Jake Mathis said. “I was like, ‘Um, train?’ He said, ‘Yeah, train.’ I was like, ‘We practice here as a team after school.’ And of course he went on about what tennis academy he went to to train at. It’s all good, though.”

While that conversation tipped off Mathis, as good a sign as any to spectators that the Colts were in for a challenging day came when Jarjoura, who was 20-0 heading into Monday’s competition, was the first Colt off the court after losing in straight sets to Parker Jones.

“He had a lot of pace on the ball,” said Jarjoura, who went to three sets in a match just twice this season. “He was a good player and he hit pretty hard. I’m not used to that.”

Jarjoura’s exit was followed by Mathis, who lost 6-1, 6-1 to Michael Malina, and No. 2 Chase Lynch, who lost 6-0, 6-0.

Although the victory was clinched for St. Pius X with the singles matches, coaches from both teams elected to play out the doubles action. On the No. 1 court, Griffin Kunkler and Parker Leib won 7-5, 6-3 over Donovan Newby and Austin Turner, while Sean Kelly and Nat Weikert won 3-6, 6-1, 6-4 against Andy Dixon and Austin Lansing.

Matt Facey was in his first season as coach of the boys and girls teams — the Lady Colts finished 16-5, were region runners-up and also advanced to the second round of state before falling on Friday at Oconee County — and they made sure it was a memorable year for the right reasons.

“The boys and girls were both incredible groups,” Facey said. “Even today, just seeing our seniors go out there and give it their all and staying within points, going down to deuces at times — it’s just something you’re not expecting, especially from a three-year school, the effort they put forth and the will they had.”

In addition to Jarjoura, senior starters for the Colts were Dixon, Mathis and Turner, who said earlier this season that he’s been impressed by the younger players who will have to step up next season to keep the progress going. In addition to the success, Turner said he’ll remember the conditions the Colts endured to put together their impressive mark on the court this year.

“We played two matches in the snow,” he said, “and a couple in 85 degrees.”

Facey would like to see the Colts endure some summer heat, too — all in the hopes of catching up to programs like St. Pius X.

“I think it requires year-round activity, which is difficult in a school this size still,” he said. “But I think we’re getting tennis players. I think we’re really evolving into maybe not two- or three-sport athletes like we’ve had in the past, but I think we’re starting to find kids who want to stress tennis during the summertime, which is probably its most important stage, when you’re there three or four hours on the court.”

• Christian Heritage boys 3, Providence Christian 0: In the opening round of the Class A private school state tournament at Dalton Golf and Country Club, Christian Heritage coach Laurie McEntire took a little sigh of relief and felt some of the pressure ease away after her double teams swept in straight sets, which meant the Lions needed just one singles win to advance to the quarterfinals.

Then she had to remind her singles players that the pressure was supposed to be on the other team.

It took a couple of mid-match adjustments, but No. 3 Devin Sanders battled back from a first-set loss and rallied to win three straight games after being down 4-3 in the third set to take a 5-7, 6-2, 6-4 win.

“It has been nice this year to count on our doubles teams, and it takes some of the pressure off,” McEntire said. “I was going out on the changeovers and telling them the pressure is on (Providence Christian) to sweep all three. I told them to watch the ball and not worry about the other scores.”

Christian Heritage (10-5), the No. 2 seed from Area 4-A, advances to play at Atlanta’s Pace Academy, the Area 3-A champion. Pace advanced with a 3-0 win over Aquinas. Although a date and time were not immediately known for the next round’s match, quarterfinals must be completed by Saturday.

On Monday, the Lions’ No. 1 doubles team of Brian Pierce and Sam Pippin took a 6-3, 6-4 win, while the No. 2 team of Austin Lowe and Cal Paige won 6-0, 7-6 (9).

But the singles matches didn’t go as well at the start.

No. 1 Phillip McClure, No. 2 Evan Townsend and No. 3 Sanders all lost their first set, with McClure and Townsend both losing in tiebreakers. McClure bounced back with a 6-1 win in the second set and was down 3-2 in the third but was winning on serve when the match was suspended. Townsend was tied 3-3 in the second set.

Sanders led 3-0 in the first set before Matthew Sheffield stormed back, and that was when McEntire delivered her message.

It worked, but when Sanders found himself down 4-3 in the third set, it was time for another chat.

“I talked to my coach and got my head on straight and got my game back. I just had to get my focus back,” Sanders said. “She told me a thing in practice a couple of weeks ago — to watch the ball and not watch the court. That was what I kept telling myself over and over again, ‘Watch the ball.’ I did that and pulled through.”

• Westminster girls 5, Murray County 0: Despite their season-ending loss in the second round of the Class 2A state tournament in Atlanta, the Lady Indians completed a year that included a runner-up finish in Region 7 and a 15-3 record overall.

Westminster, which won the Region 6-2A title this season, advances to the quarterfinals in a bid to repeat as state champion.

“Westminster is solid all the way up and down their lineup,” Lady Indians coach Becky Quast said. “I am really proud of the team. They did really well.”

No. 1 singles player Greta Lazzarotto had the closest match of the day, falling 7-5, 6-2 in the junior’s final competition for Murray County. A foreign exchange student from Venice, Italy, Lazzarotto will return to Europe at the end of the school year.

In the other singles matches, No. 2 Gabbie Bordelon lost 6-0, 6-0 and No. 3 Allison Jones fell 6-2, 6-0. In doubles, No. 1 Chloe Brown and Kailey Webb lost 6-0, 6-0 and No. 2 Alyssa Jones and Emily Myers lost 6-1, 6-0.

“Going into the season, I was hoping for a state berth, and I was hoping for first or second in the region, and we accomplished both of those goals,” Quast said. “The girls were really strong for me this year. Every time they went out, they fought so hard and showed they were thinking on each point and not just hitting the ball back over the net. It was good tennis all season long.”