First it was No. 3 singles. No. 2 singles quickly followed. And by the time the No. 1 doubles team went down, the Red Elephants’ fate was sealed.
The sixth-ranked Gainesville boys tennis team saw its season come to an end in the second round of the Class AAA state playoffs Tuesday at Longwood Park, as fifth-ranked Dunwoody cruised to a 4-1 win.
Despite the outcome, Gainesville coach Barrett Lingenfelter kept an upbeat outlook.
"Not a disappointment at all," Lingenfelter said. "This is not our lowest point of the season by far. You know, what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger and that’s exactly what I told (the team). Everything in life that happens, happens for a reason."
While Tuesday may not have been the Red Elephants (16-3) at their lowest point, it was the first time in more than two months the Region 7-AAA champions came out on the losing end of a match, ending a string of 14 straight wins.
The No. 1 doubles team of Louis Hokayem and Corey McDonald and the No. 2 doubles team of Robbie Bilbrough and Drew Denning had rolled through that span without a loss, but both teams fell to the Wildcats (11-6).
"We definitely expected to play a very good team," Lingenfelter said. "(Dunwoody was) definitely at our level, and we definitely knew there was going to be competition at every position."
Dunwoody’s No. 1 doubles team of Thomas Colden and Satien Worasilpchai won 6-3, 6-4, while Non Worasilpchai and David McMahan won in No. 2 doubles 6-3, 6-2.
Ryan Joiner kept his personal winning streak alive, salvaging Gainesville’s only victory, 6-3, 6-4 over Dunwoody’s Daniel Keslensy.
Gainesville’s Connor McMorrow lost 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2 singles, and Doug McDuff fell, 6-0, 6-1, in No. 3 singles.
"We played a team that was right at our level and we gave them good competition, and likewise," Lingenfelter said. "The higher up you get in this state tournament in tennis, the tougher the teams are, the less errors you can make. You’ve got to be perfect."
It was the final match in the careers of the members Red Elephants’ doubles teams, both of which are made up of seniors.
"Those are four special young men," Lingenfelter said of Hokayem, McDonald, Bilbrough and Denning. "They’ll be in my heart and in my head for a long time."
Dunwoody advances to take on the Riverwood/Oconee County winner in the quarterfinals.
It marks the fourth straight trip to the elite eight for the Wildcats.