A Class 3A tennis semifinal loss to Westminster last April revealed to Bob Woodworth exactly what his North Hall High girls program needed to do to get better.
Fast forward to Wednesday, April 25, and the end result wasn’t the one the longtime North Hall coach wanted for his program with a second-round loss to the defending Class 3A champion Wildcats. But the top-seeded, young Lady Trojans managed to push an Atlanta tennis powerhouse to the brink before ultimately falling short, 3-2, in Gainesville.
“(A) few points here or there made the difference, but (Westminster) is a good team,” said Woodworth, in his 15th season at North Hall. “I’d be proud of them too, proud of everybody’s tennis today.”
This rematch bared no resemblance to a state semifinal that was decided in less than an hour last year.
With a fifth-consecutive trip to the state quarterfinals on the line, wins by lone senior Christen Barnes (6-1, 6-0) in No. 2 singles and the No. 2 doubles team of Ella Oxley/Raquel Kallab (6-3, 6-1) helped North Hall even the match at 2-all. And over on the near court, it all came down to a decisive third set at No. 3 singles.
A mixture of North Hall and Westminster patrons gathered as North Hall’s Sydney Patterson — after dropping the opening set 4-6 — leaned on a steady serve and solid return game to eventually take the second set, 6-4, knotting the match against Westminster’s Sophie Mueller.
But Patterson’s rally couldn’t last, and Mueller pulled away for 6-1 win in the third set.
“(Sydney’s) got guts. She’s got guts and some serious tennis talent,” Woodworth said. “She was able to make the points longer, and that was her goal. ... She did what we wanted her to do and made it close. ... She kept us in it.”
Still, what a difference a year makes.
Woodworth expects to return six of his starting seven that includes Patterson next season. At the same time, the coach said missing a leader like Barnes will be tough for the program.
“Of course, I’m disappointed like all the girls are,” the coach said. “But if you measure this against what this program has been doing over the past number of years — and even compared to last year against this same opponent — our team showed will. I’m really proud of them. We’ll be back.”