C.J. Weaver believes his Gainesville High boys tennis team is still a work in progress.
Not bad for a squad one win away from a region championship.
The Red Elephants beat Apalachee, 3-1, in the Region 8-6A tournament semifinals Tuesday, April 10, at Longwood Park in Gainesville. They joined the Gainesville girls, who breezed to a 3-0 win against Habersham Central, in the region finals at 2 p.m. today.
“We were solid (on Tuesday),” Weaver said. “We knew we had to play well to win because Apalachee is a good team. But even at this point in the season, we’re still a work in progress. But we’re coming along.”
After the top-seeded Red Elephants fell behind with a quick loss in No. 1 singles, Dylan Pineda knotted the score with an easy 6-0, 6-1 win in No. 2 singles. Gainesville then held sway in both doubles lines to defeat Apalachee, which advanced to the semifinals with a 3-2 victory against Habersham Central earlier in the day.
The No. 1 seed Lady Red Elephants, meanwhile, dropped only four games total and needed just 45 minutes to punch their ticket to the region finals.
“I thought we played well today,” Gainesville girls coach Kendall Gruhn said. “We got in a little warm-up and then just came out solid. We’ve got a really solid team with three seniors, so we’ve got good experience in No. 1 and 2 singles and No. 1 doubles.”
That was evident Tuesday as the Lady Red Elephants won those three lines in convincing fashion.
Ali Waggoner cruised to a 6-0, 6-0 victory in No. 1 singles, while Madi Kiser bested her opponent, 6-0, 6-1, to clinch No. 2 singles. The No. 1 doubles team of Paige Patterson/Hannah Williams rounded out the win with a 6-2, 6-1 triumph.
By the time Gainesville sealed the win, Savannah Bowen/Grayson Wagner were ahead in No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles player Grace O’Keefe hadn’t even begun her match.
The Gainesville boys had to work a bit harder, particularly in a pair of competitive doubles matches. Michael Head/Joseph Diaz battled to a 7-5 win in the first No. 2 doubles set before taking control to win the second set, 6-1.
The No. 1 doubles team of Caleb Anderson/Max Wuest had to fend off a spirited challenge from Apalachee after taking the first set, 6-2. Facing a 4-4 tie in the second set, Anderson/Wuest claimed the next two games and clinched the semifinal win for the Red Elephants when they forced a return back into the net.
Now the Gainesville boys are in position to win their first region title since 2015. Weaver said steady outings from his singles players — a group featuring Ben Burns, who was up 6-0, 4-0 in No. 3 singles when Tuesday’s match ended — has spurred his team’s improvement this season.
“We’ve always been competitive in doubles, but we’ve been more consistent in singles this year than we were last year,” he said.
The Red Elephants hope that trend continues in today’s region championship match against Winder-Barrow, which beat Lanier in the semifinals.
Gainesville’s girls squad will look to defend its region title against Lanier, which earned a spot in the final with a win against Dacula. The Lady Red Elephants have won two straight region championships and five in the last seven years, a standard they hope to live up to once again.
“Winning a region championship has been our goal since Day 1,” Gruhn said. “But we had to understand that we can only take it one match at a time. There are no guarantees because this is such a strong region.”