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Flowery Branch girls top Creekview in opening round of tennis playoffs
Lady Falcons to face North Paulding in 2nd round
Flowery Branch High’s Anna Kate Shaw returns a volley during the Lady Falcons’ playoff match in the Class AAAA state playoffs with Creekview on Thursday afternoon at Flowery Branch High. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

FLOWERY BRANCH — One powerful overhand shot from Flowery Branch senior Bekki Benton sent the Lady Falcons into the next round of the Class AAAA state tennis tournament Wednesday in Flowery Branch.

Facing a tiebreaker battle at No. 1 doubles with partner Durden Smith, Benton put an overhand smash across the net, giving the Lady Falcons a win in the second set and the match at 6-1, 7-6 (7-4) in the opening round against Creekview.

“I automatically go for the person at the net,” Benton said.

Flowery Branch also won the other doubles match, along with a victory by No. 3 singles player Nicole Morris. With the 3-2 win, the Region 8-AAAA champion Lady Falcons advance to face North Paulding next week in the second round at Flowery Branch.

Flowery Branch coach Ginger Jackson said that the first round playoff win was the extension of all the hard work put in during the regular season, specifically the concentration and consistent footwork.

Added to that, the Lady Grizzlies were a formidable challenge as a No. 4 seed out of Region 6-AAAA, with wins from Emily Waters at No. 1 singles (6-2, 6-1) and No. 2 singles by Emily Fraysier.

“I knew we were good, but you never know until you play another really strong opponent,” Jackson said. “Creekview was a No. 4 from a very tough region.

“I can’t say enough good things about the way our team played today.”

Even though Flowery Branch came away with the key win in the tiebreaker at No. 1 doubles, it was Creekview that led the match early. The Lady Grizzles junior pairing of Hannah Rowland and Sloan Anderson led 4-3 in the second set, then held a 3-2 lead in the tiebreaker.

“I felt like we were right there all afternoon,” Creekview coach Jason Hubbard said. “We were well matched up against Flowery Branch, which has a great squad.”

Benton said one of the challenges of that pivotal match in doubles was always finding themselves down a break, before finally turning the tide when it mattered most. She added it’s a big thrill winning in the playoffs at home, with more to come next week as the field of competition in Class AAAA is pared down to 16 squads.

“To be a senior and have another home playoff match coming up is definitely exciting,” Benton said.

Hubbard said his team responded well to major shifts. Rowland and Anderson were previously the No. 2 doubles, then bumped up to the No. 1 pairing. Creekview’s No. 3 singles player Kathryn Hunter was previously part of his No. 1 doubles team.

“I thought we got off to a slow start (with the changes),” Hubbard said. “But the girls moved up and slowly started building some confidence.”

At No. 2 doubles, Madison Smith and Dani Taylor won 6-1, 6-3 over Creekview’s Kelsey Wade and Lauren Pero.

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