After Flowery Branch High freshman Alicia Quast punched a volley winner for 40-30 during the second set against Buford on Wednesday, April 11, twin sister and doubles partner Kendalle Quast settled in her stance on the ad side to serve for the match.
She had no idea it was also for the region tennis championship.
Buford’s return off Kendalle Quast’s final serve dipped into the net as the Lady Falcons’ young No. 2 tandem won 6-3, 6-2 and clinched a repeat 8-5A title as part of a 3-1 victory over the second-seeded Lady Wolves at Buford City Park.
The Quast sisters were greeted with ecstatic greetings and warm hugs as their teammates delivered the joyful news.
“Coming off and finding out I was serving for the region (was) a great feeling. It’s like a load off my shoulders,” Kendalle Quast said with a grin.
Lady Falcons coach Ginger Jackson was hoisted by her players for group photos in celebration of another capstone for the program.
“I knew (coming in the season) this would be a special group,” Jackson said. “When you play young girls, sometimes you worry about youth. But in tennis, youth isn’t necessarily a bad thing.”
Not at all.
The Quast sisters were two of three freshmen to boost the Flowery Branch girls to their sixth region title overall under Jackson and secure a top playoff seeding for the Class 5A tournament commencing next week.
Meanwhile, Sean Gilbert’s senior-laden Buford boys team put Flowery Branch in an early hole by first claiming opening sets in four of five lines before fending off a late push by the Falcons to secure back-to-back Region 8-5A titles and top playoff seeding in a 3-1 victory.
Despite a loss on the girl’s side, Gilbert applauded the effort of his two seniors (Kenzie Walters and Kenzie Harms) and freshman Alex Mann (No. 1 singles), who unloaded slew of forehand winners and sealed a 6-1, 6-0 victory with a ace on match point against Annabelle Thomas. It deadlocked the championship at a point apiece, minutes after Flowery Branch’s Olivia Nance (No. 3 singles) won in straight sets (6-1, 6-1) down the hill. It appeared to give the indication the match would go the distance.
But it was short-lived.
One court down, Lady Falcons senior Olivia Correa was aware her doubles teams were already ahead in their matches when she changed gears. Correa leaned on a steady backhand and calm disposition to storm back against Walters and take the second set 6-1 after losing the first 6-3 in No. 2 singles.
“I knew if I had dropped my head, I would have lost the match,” said Correa, who beside fellow senior Brenna Martin has now won three region titles. “Seeing that just gave me more confidence, along with just knowing they were gonna win as well. I think that’s when I kicked it in gear.”
Minutes later and side-by-side, the doubles teams delivered. Martin and Alyssa McSpadden at No. 1 doubles captured the second point for Flowery Branch (6-1, 6-3). The Quast sisters followed suit soon after, eliciting cheers from the Flowery Branch patrons watching from outside the gates.
The Lady Falcons will face the No. 4 seed out of Region 7-5A, while the No. 1 seed Buford boys will too await an opponent from the region at a time and date to be determined. The Lady Wolves will host a home playoff match as a No. 2 seed next week.
Jackson is hoping for a longer stint for her Lady Falcons in this year’s Class 5A tournament after matching the program’s deepest postseason run with a state quarterfinal appearance last spring.
“We’re gonna celebrate today and get back to work tomorrow ... set up for our state run and ride this ride for as long as we can because this is a special one,” Jackson said.
BUFORD BOYS REPEAT: One plead of Gilbert to both his Buford tennis teams during a pre-match speech Wednesday was to stay positive and make another memory on the court.
His boys team comprised of four senior staples — Dalton Counts, Cameron Deloach, Kurt Knudsen, Trent Milton — certainly made a good one.
Jack Thomas gave Buford its first point at No. 3 singles (6-1, 6-1), and then others answered the call of their coach. Gilbert praised the poise shown by his boys on the opposite side of the complex, his two doubles teams showing the most spunk with a pair of hard-earned victories to propel Buford to a repeat region title.
“(Flowery Branch) closed the gap in the regular season, and they closed the gap here,” the Buford coach said. “They continue to get better and that’s what you expect.”
As Flowery Branch’s Nathan Holley handily defeated Buford’s Counts (6-1, 6-1) for 1-all and fellow Falcon Drayton Matus let off a few battle cries as he split sets against Brady Todd in No. 1 singles on the adjacent court, the Wolves began to pull away. Gilbert’s senior No. 2 doubles tandem of Milton and Knudsen made sure they were the ones to set the pace in a second go-around with Flowery Branch’s Gunnar Hetzel/Brady McVey, taking the first set 6-3. And with Hetzel and McVey on the cusp of evening the match, Gilbert’s pair still managed to hold on in a second-set tiebreaker (7-5) and clinch the title for Buford.
“They came in and put the hammer down on the first set, but they just had a hard time finishing it off, you know?” Gilbert said. “I couldn’t be more proud of Trent and Kurt, closing it out the way they did. I mean gracious, 7-5 in a tiebreaker?"
Buford senior Deloach and junior Alex Pruitt in No. 1 doubles were the others to claim a point behind their teammates with a 6-4, 6-4 win over Brody Millwood/John Hollis of Flowery Branch.