FLOWERY BRANCH — Todd Vokal would barely call his first season as the Flowery Branch boys tennis coach an easy one.
But with a historic season that included a Region 8-AAAAA title and a state playoff appearance, he’s certainly not complaining anymore about the early-season hardships that tested his players.
That season ended in a place the Falcons had never been before this year — in the second round of the Class AAAAA state tennis tournament, where Flowery Branch lost 3-0 to Cambridge on Monday at Davis Middle School.
“It’s been an extremely rewarding season,” Vokal said. “With the different obstacles we’ve had to go through, the guys have really come together. I couldn’t be more proud of how they ended up.”
The Falcons lost in straight sets at No. 1 doubles, No. 2 doubles No. 1 singles against a first-year Bears team in the midst of their first-ever playoff experience.
It took Flowery Branch back-to-back first-round exits before advancing this season before it defeated South Paulding in the first round last Tuesday.
The Falcons won the Region 8-AAAAA title this year despite entering the tournament as a low seed due to a series of forfeits early in the season. They upset the three highest-seeded teams in the region en route to the championship.
It was an experience Vokal learned from and is prepared to carry with him as he attempts to get his team even further into the state playoffs in the coming years.
“It’s been a crazy year — a lot of emotional stuff happened this year,” Vokal said. “A lot of lessons learned from me, from the kids and from everybody else. It’s definitely a couple of feathers in the cap on how to learn from what happened this year and take it into next year.”
Cambridge, based out of the talent-rich North Fulton area, won No. 1 doubles 6-0, 6-0 over Matt Takacs and Quang Cao, then took a 2-0 lead by defeating Phillip Correa and Lucas Arnette 6-0, 6-1. The Bears secured the team victory at No. 1 singles with a 6-2, 6-0 win over A.J. Morris.
Cambridge plays the winner of a playoff contest between Allatoona and Pope on Monday.
“Cambridge is really good from top to bottom, and they just kept it on us,” Vokal said. “I couldn’t be more proud of the guys and how they fought.”
Flowery Branch loses four seniors from this year’s team, leaving a solid core of players set to return next season.
The goal remains the same for the Falcons — win region, qualify for state and see how far they can go.
“We got further than we’ve ever been in Flowery Branch tennis history, and that means a lot to not only us, but also the coach,” said Beau Milwood, who was winning his No. 2 singles match before it was suspended when Cambridge picked up its third win. “We’ve all come together more as team since the beginning of the season.
“It’s really elevated everyone, more physical and mentally. It’s prepared us more for next year — we have high expectations now, not only for this year.”
Vokal said more of his players are competing during the offseason this year, and community tennis involvement in the Flowery Branch area continues to grow.
“It’s not just another one of those you can walk up and play it on any day,” Vokal said. “They understand that Flowery Branch is a great place to play tennis. We have a lot of great communities that are playing a lot of good tennis in the area.”