April 24, 2014

Area tennis roundup: Lady Colts earn milestone win

For the first three years of the high school’s existence, Coahulla Creek has been steadily building its tennis programs.

The progress was especially evident on Wednesday in Varnell as the Lady Colts earned their first-ever win in the state tournament with a 3-1 victory over Banks County in the opening round of the Class 3A bracket.

Coahulla Creek, the No. 2 seed from Region 5, swept its three singles matches, with No. 3 Katherine Ann Sheppard clinching the overall win with a three-set victory. Sheppard fell 2-6 in the opening set, but battled back to win 6-2 and 7-5.

Other victories came from No. 1 Erin Orem, 6-0, 6-1, and No. 2 Kathryn Baker, 6-3, 6-1.

“Our No. 1 and No. 2 singles are fighters, and they have been all year long,” Coahulla Creek coach Matt Facey said. “We have a very strong, reliable group of single girls. Katherine really stepped up against a really tough player and battled all day. Everyone really played extremely well, and it is great to see us step up our play and do so well when it matters most.”

In the second round, for which matches must be completed by Tuesday, Coahulla Creek (16-4) will travel to face Region 8 champion Oconee County, which beat Decatur 3-2 in the first round. Oconee County beat the Lady Colts last year in their first appearance in the state playoffs.

Facey said a date and time for the second-round match should be set this morning.

While Sheppard’s win secured the overall victory, the No. 2 doubles team of Olivia Hughes and Madison Zerbe was leading 2-1 in the second set after winning 6-1 in the opening set when the overall match was decided. Banks County’s lone victory was at No. 1 doubles over Vanessa Suarez and Alex Wilbanks, who fell 6-4, 7-6 (5). That one loss did little to dim the celebration for the Lady Colts.

“It has been really exciting, and everyone has really stepped up with their match play,” Facey said. “It was kind of an assured win for us. We felt like we deserved to be there, and the kids’ confidence was very high. Their skill level has really improved all season long with each match.”

The pressure is now on the Coahulla Creek boys (19-0), who claimed the Region 5-3A championship and will host White County at 4 p.m. today in the first round of state.

Carrollton boys 5, Northwest Whitfield 0: In the first round of the Class 4A state tournament, the visiting Bruins — the No. 4 seed from Region 7 — were swept by the Region 5 champion. Carrollton was a state quarterfinalist last year, while Northwest ends the season with a 9-4 record.

The loss was the last match for seniors Santi Angel, Cody Bourff, Blake Frankenberger, Jacob Fredrickson, Troy Poe, Tristen Smith and James Zhong.

“Even in the few matches that we lost, they were all really tight and this was a great senior class to work with,” Northwest coach Ryan Richards said. “They were fun to coach and they worked hard every day.

“Going forward, we have to keep working on a tennis culture at Northwest. We are very grateful to have Whitfield County allow us to use Edwards Park as our home courts, but getting our courts and facilities fixed up would be a big step for our program.”

Richards said the courts at Northwest currently are not playable for matches.

• Murray County’s girls beat visiting Bowdon in the opening round of the Class 2A state tournament, Murray County High School athletic director Greg Linder said, but no details were available and attempts to reach Lady Indians coach Becky Quast were unsuccessful.

Murray County (15-2), the Region 7-2A runner-up, heads to Atlanta in the second round to face Westminster, the Region 6 champion.

• In the Area 4-A boys tournament at Rome’s Darlington School, Christian Heritage (9-4) won twice to reach today’s 4 p.m. championship match at Mount Paran Christian in Kennesaw.

The Lions beat Fellowship Christian 3-1 in the opening round before topping Whitefield Academy 3-1 in the semifinals.

With that victory, they became the first Christian Heritage team to reach a region final in any sport since the school began competing in the Georgia High School Association in 2012, coach Laurie McEntire said.

“This morning we had a sort of a slow start but were still able to pull out the match,” McEntire said. “Some of my players that usually come out strong, I’m not sure what it was this morning — but when they started playing this afternoon, they were spot on. ... If we can carry that momentum into (the title match), we should be in good shape.”

Against Fellowship, the Lions swept doubles with wins from No. 1 Brian Pierce and Samuel Pippin, 6-2, 7-5, and No. 2 Austin Lowe and Cal Paige, 6-4, 6-2. Their other victory came at No. 2 singles as Evan Townsend won 6-1, 7-5.

Fellowship won the No. 1 singles match, and the No. 3 singles match was halted after the team outcome was decided.

Against Whitefield, the Lions took two singles courts — No. 1  Phillip McClure won 6-1, 6-0, and No. 3 Devin Sanders won 6-1, 6-4 — and Lowe and Paige won 6-2, 6-3, at No. 2 doubles. Whitefield won at No. 1 doubles and the No. 2 singles match was not completed.

Christian Heritage and Mount Paran both finished first in their sub-areas during the regular season to earn No. 1 seeds for the area tournament. Mount Paran beat the Lions 3-1 earlier this month in Dalton.

Regardless of today’s outcome, the Lions will host a first-round match for the Class A private school state tournament. That match must be completed by Tuesday.

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