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Class 5A tennis playoffs: Flowery Branch girls face quick turnaround after second-round sweep
Lady Falcons beat Wayne County 5-0 to earn a quarterfinal match against Carrollton
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Flowery Branch's Marissa Barrett returns the ball over the net as Brenna Martin backs her up in their doubles match against Wayne County in a second-round playoff match Tuesday at the Flowery Branch High tennis courts. - photo by Erin O. Smith

The Flowery Branch girls tennis team won’t have much time to celebrate its Class 5A second-round state playoff win against Wayne County.

After cruising to a 5-0 sweep Tuesday, the Lady Falcons (18-3) will host Carrollton at 3 p.m. today in the quarterfinals at the Flowery Branch High tennis courts. With rain in the forecast later this week and GHSA rules mandating all quarterfinal matches must be completed by Saturday, the schools prearranged a date and location before completing their second-round matches Tuesday.

Expected inclement weather pushed Flowery Branch’s contest with No. 2 seed Wayne County from Monday to Tuesday, but the Lady Falcons still dominated by winning every set while clinching the victory in about an hour.

“We played really well, but we have to keep building on it as the playoffs continue,” Lady Falcons coach Ginger Jackson said. “We feel very good, and I’m very proud of how the girls competed and pleased that everybody is doing what has been asked of them.”

As a result, the top-seeded Lady Falcons are back in the quarterfinals for the third time in the program’s short history (2012 and 2015). It’s the furthest stage of the playoffs Flowery Branch has ever reached.

Jackson said she’s confident in the way her team has been playing but wouldn’t speculate on the squad’s chances of finally getting over the hump and making it to the semifinals.

“It would be nice to break through, but we never look too far ahead,” the coach said. “I always tell the girls that tomorrow’s another day.”

Tomorrow brings with it another match after the Lady Falcons’ second-round win Tuesday.

The No. 1 doubles team of Kylie McGuire/Peyton Brick picked up the first point for Flowery Branch, breezing to a 6-1, 6-1 win against Wayne County’s Mia Popkin/Kadie Moxley. Not long after, Olivia Nance took the No. 3 singles line for the Lady Falcons against Alexis Scarborough (6-0, 6-1).

Though just a freshman, Nance dropped only one game in extending her undefeated record this season.

“I’ve really been consistent throughout the entire year,” Nance said. “Today I just played to my backhand and tried to keep it inside the court. I was really able to limit my mistakes.”

No. 2 singles player Olivia Correa clinched the victory for Flowery Branch, albeit in a match with slightly more drama. After the Lady Falcons’ junior took the first set 6-1, Wayne County’s Madison Moxley trailed just 4-3 in the second set.

Correa promptly slammed the door, winning the next two games to punch Flowery Branch’s ticket to the quarterfinals.
Annabelle Thomas wrapped up her No. 1 singles contest with Kelli Poppell about a minute later. Following a first-game loss, Thomas conceded only two more en route to a 6-2, 6-1 win.

“The first game was more for me to settle down and get into it,” said the sophomore, whose powerful strokes frequently got Poppell out of position. “I started to play more aggressively as the match went on. If you do that, you’ll win more points than you give up.”

Despite the match already being decided, both teams agreed to complete the No. 2 doubles match that ended with the Lady Falcons’ Marissa Barrett/Brenna Martin topping Gracie Carter/Morgan Courson (6-3, 6-2).

It put the finishing touches on Flowery Branch’s second convincing playoff win since it earned the Region 8-5A championship with a 3-1 win against Buford on April 12. The club opened the state tournament with 4-0 victory against fourth-seeded Grady last Tuesday.

Now the Lady Falcons are set for a battle with No. 2 seed Carrollton, with each having to play their second match in as many days.

Jackson said she’s confident in her players’ ability to handle the quick turnaround thanks to their participation in early-season tournaments, which sometimes featured four games in only 24 hours.

They also know just what’s at stake Wednesday.

“We’d like to get to a new level,” Jackson said.

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