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High school tennis: Gainesville falls 3-2 in Region 8-6A championship match against Lanier
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Gainesville's Ben Burns returns the ball during the Region 8-6A tournament championship against Lanier at Longwood Park on Thursday, April 11, 2019. - photo by Austin Steele

The Gainesville boys tennis took Lanier down to the wire in Thursdays Region 8-6A championship match at Longwood Park, but it wasn’t meant to be for the Red Elephants. Gainesville’s Ben Burns came back from a set down in the matchup’s decisive third singles match, fighting off a couple of match points in the third before finally falling 7-5, 4-6, 6-4.

The result gave the Longhorns a 3-2 win and the region title. 

But after Gainesville lost the regular season meeting between the teams 5-0, Red Elephants coach Clark Weaver said he was encouraged by the way his team fought to make the rematch closer, despite coming up a little bit short. 

“I just told our guys go out there, fight every point and just play their game,” he said.

With the loss, the Red Elephants will host South Paulding to open the state playoffs next week. Match time is still to be determined.

Gainesville claimed the first point of the day at line two doubles when Joseph Diaz sent a backhand volley cross court to close the match out and give Diaz and partner Matthew Carter a 7-5, 6-2 win. 

Weaver said depth is one of the team’s biggest strengths, which often gives the Red Elephants the advantage in a two doubles spot that many other teams struggle. 

“As a coach at Gainesville, I try to have solid one, two, three singles and a solid one and two doubles,” Weaver said. “Being solid all the way through your lineup, you hope to get a few free points from the other team.”

Philip Mady picked up the next point for Gainesville moments later with a 6-2, 6-3 win at two singles. But the line one doubles duo of Caleb Anderson and Michael Head came up a bit short in their comeback bid, losing 7-5, 6-4, and Dylan Pineda dropped a 6-2, 6-2 decision at one singles to bring the overall score to two matches apiece. 

Every member of both teams then crowded Longwood Park’s court two for a back-and-forth deciding match. Burns dropped the first set 7-5, and trailed 3-1 in the second before fighting back to take it 6-4. He escaped a marathon of a game trailing 5-3 to force one more before losing the next to end a 7-5, 4-6, 6-4 defeat.

“I had a feeling it would come down to Ben after the first 45 minutes,” Weaver said. “I got him primed up, let him know, gave him some good game tips. The guy he played was just a little bit more steady today.”

Despite the final result, Weaver said the stakes and closeness of the match will serve as a good trial run for the Red Elephants as they prepare for the state tournament. 

“I think it was a good experience,” Weaver said. “I think our guys are playing their best tennis right now, and next week, we’re going to need it. It’s going to be a tough first round match, and if we can get past that, it’s going to be a really tough second round match. We’re just looking forward to playing some more tennis, looking forward to bringing this level into the playoffs.” 

GAINESVILLE GIRLS 3, DACULA 1: The Lady Red Elephants secured the No. 3 seed out of Region 8-6A with Thursday’s win over the Lady Falcons. 

Grace O’Keefe and Hannah Williams both won 6-2, 6-3 at lines one and two singles. The two doubles team of Hannah Wagner and Savannah Brown sealed things for the Lady Red Elephants, fighting back from a first set loss to win 4-6, 6-1, 7-6 (11-9). 

The Gainesville girls will be on the road to start state playoffs. 

Regional events