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Flowery Branch boys tennis sweeps South Paulding in first round
Flowery Branch’s Cris Dilidili returns a shot from his No. 3 singles opponent during the Falcons’ 3-0 win over South Paulding in the first round of the Class AAAAA state tennis tournament on Tuesday at Davis Middle School. - photo by Mitch Blomert | The Times

Third time’s the charm for the Flowery Branch boys tennis team.

After a pair of failed attempts to get past the first round of the state playoffs in the past two seasons, the Falcons finally broke into the second round this year with a 3-0 win over South Paulding in their Class AAAAA state tournament opener on Tuesday at Davis Middle School.

Flowery Branch, which won a Region 8-AAAAA title last Wednesday, won a pair of singles matches before completing the sweep against fourth-seeded Spartans at No. 2 doubles. All three of the Falcons’ first-round wins came in straight sets.

It was a quick enough win to dismiss any concerns coach Todd Vokal had about his team’s mental readiness for the state tournament.

“I just wasn’t sure where the guys’ heads were at,” Vokal said. “We had a pretty big and pretty emotional win in our region, and our practice was pretty good (Monday), when we were just trying to keep our head straight.

“You could see there was a little tentativeness in some of them coming around, but they were able to find it there, where it was in region. They did a good job taking care of business and doing what they had to do.”

Flowery Branch plays the winner of Tuesday’s first-round match between Cambridge and Lakeside-Dekalb at Davis Middle. Matches must be completed by next Thursday.

Vokal isn’t counting on another quick sweep like in the first round, despite holding the higher seed once again.

“I truly believe that in tennis, from the one seed to the four, you have no idea what you’re going to get,” Vokal said. “There’s some great tennis played across the state, so it doesn’t matter what seed.”

The Falcons’ doubles team of Phillip Correa and Lucas Arnette recorded the game-winning match, defeating their opponents with a 6-2, 7-5 sweep.

It was the second straight outing for Flowery Branch that was won by a doubles team. The Falcons’ No. 1 team broke a 2-2 tie in last week’s region tournament finals against Gainesville.

Flowery Branch’s No. 2 and No. 3 singles team allowed South Paulding just two game wins between the two matches. Beau Millwood gave the Falcons an early lead after taking No. 2 singles 6-1, 6-0, and Cris Dilidili cruised past his opponent at No. 3 singles for a 6-0, 6-1 victory.

“I told the guys earlier, ‘you don’t need to care who’s across the net. You need to win your mental game, then everything will take care of itself,’” Vokal said.