So far, the North Hall girls tennis team appears to enjoy the concept of home-court advantage.
One week after battling a tough Greater Atlanta Christian team to win the Region 7-AAA championship, the Lady Trojans’ endeavor Monday proved swift and stress-free under the broiling sun during a first-round match at North Hall High School.
The Lady Trojans are through to the second round of the Class AAA tournament after taking roughly 40 minutes to sweep three of the five lines against Stone Mountain.
“All that anxiety kind of built up and they had to experience it,” North Hall tennis coach Bob Woodworth said of last week’s region championship. “Having this match, which wasn’t as stressful, I saw them relax and smile and enjoy it, more than I’ve seen it before. So I’m looking forward to them using that new enjoyment and relaxation into the next match.”
The second-seeded North Hall boys team’s match immediately followed in the Monday doubleheader, but its season ended at the helm of last year’s Class AA champion and No. 3 seed Lovett in a 3-0 loss.
Unlike last year, in which North Hall spent its entire postseason on the road, the Lady Trojans (16-4) host the winner of No. 2 seed Cook and No. 3 seed Southeastern Bulloch for a second-round match later this week — date and time to be determined. The Lady Trojans previously toppled Cook, 4-1, in the Class AAAA second round last April.
Woodworth admitted there were some uncertainties after losing six staples from last year’s Elite Eight squad to graduation. But the longtime coach who takes pride in building team morale through ladder matches and overall competition within his roster in the regular season, feels the girls are well ahead of schedule.
The results manifested on the courts. After Junior Christen Barnes claimed the No. 3 singles line by forfeit, both doubles teams for North Hall cruised to straight-set victories as freshmen tandem Raquel Kallab and Carsen Baumgartner captured the team’s second point with a 6-0, 6-0 win. Anna Montgomery at No. 1 singles led 6-0, 4-1 when veterans Sydney Patterson and Annalise Gregory clinched the match with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Lisa Le and Gissell Duran.
Lauren Davis at No. 2 singles (6-0, 6-0) and Montgomery (6-0, 6-1) still finished their matches in dominant fashion.
“I’m a big believer in competition,” said Woodworth, now in his 15th season with the program. “I’ve got them working and competing against one another cooperatively, which is kind of nice, and identified who are the best players, and they’re the ones out there today. And they did exceed my expectations.”
NORTH HALL BOYS TENNIS FALLS: It was not for lack of effort in the Trojans’ disheartening first-round loss to Lovett according to Woodworth.
In a day that started promising for two of North Hall’s lines, the Lions — a program with abiding success in playoff settings — didn’t drop a set en route to advancing to the second round.
North Hall’s No. 2 doubles team of Daniel Martin and Shawn Wallhausen were leading 4-0 before Lovett’s Phillip Thorton and Harrison Jones stormed back to take a marathon opening set, 7-5 — only after both teams traded 10 deuces at 6-5.
By that time, Lovett was already on the verge of sweeping as North Hall’s Christian Boychuk lost in straight sets to Lovett freshman Jonathan Mulner (6-0, 6-1), and North Hall’s No. 2 tandem of Ethan Surles and Adam Turcotte lost 6-4, 6-0.
For Trojans’ Masa Kobayashi and Lovett’s Danny Nelson in the No. 1 singles slot, it was a contrasting matchup in terms of height and playing style.
Nelson imposed a game of power and all-court prowess to convert 12 of 13 break point chances while adding an ace. He held Kobayashi, who showcased the one-handed backhand, hostage deep behind the baseline for the majority in what was a dominant 6-1, 6-2 win for one of the Lions’ returning starters from last year’s Class AA championship squad.
Kobayashi’s backhand granted him a brief advantage in the long rallies to take the first game of the opening set. But, Nelson went on to exhibit his all-court game and a heavy topspin ball, dictating the majority of the points to follow while rocking his opponent side-to-side.
Nelson quickly broke back and won eight-straight games after stringing together a series of well-placed second serves deep on the ad-side, opening the court to set up a slew of forehand winners. Nelson also was also successful in terms of net points won for the match.
After falling in a 3-0 hole to start the second set, Kobayashi managed to win nine of the next 10 points, to make it 3-2. But Nelson turned it back on to win the next three games and seal it.
Woodworth, who had only two returning starters from last year’s state semifinal team, witnessed this revamped program raise the bar for seasons to come nonetheless.
“What I really saw was a bunch of learning and a bunch of effort from all of them this year,” said Woodworth. “We’re gonna build on that. Hey, we weren’t even supposed to make the state playoffs, and we did. We played a great team, made it tough. But we’re gonna build on that.”