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Gainesville girls tennis team secures 3rd Region 8-AAAAA title in past 4 years, No. 1 seed at state
Red Elephants boys tennis team locks up No. 3 seed in Class AAAAA state tourney with win vs Branch
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Flowery Branch's Annabelle Thomas hits a forehand during the Gainesville girls Thursday in the Region 8-AAAAA tennis championship at Longwood Park in Gainesville. - photo by Erin O. Smith

Gainesville girls tennis coach Kellie Smith said she never felt nervous when it came down to Ali Waggoner pulling off the crucial victory Thursday afternoon at Longwood Park.

When it comes down to earning the wins, Waggoner has been a staple all year, according to Smith.

“Ali’s been the clincher every time it’s been something that comes down to one more match,” Smith said. “She really deals with the pressure well. You’d never know it, there’s no change in expression, but she’s the key player in terms of closing off matches.”

Waggoner pulled off the 7-6, 6-2 straight-sets victory over Peyton Brick in the No. 3 singles pairing that ultimately helped the Lady Red Elephants top Flowery Branch 3-1 in the Region 8-AAAAA championship match, sealing a No. 1 seed in next week’s opening round of the Class AAAAA state tournament.

Gainesville’s first-round matchup, which will be played against the No. 4 seed out of Region 5-AAAAA, must be played by April 21. Flowery Branch will host the No. 3 seed from Region 5-AAAAA.

Gainesville has won its region title three of the last four years, and it entered this week’s region tournament undefeated in region play. The Lady Red Elephants have made the region title match each of the last four years.

Gainesville’s Katherine Wright (6-4, 6-0) swept past Olivia Correa in No. 1 singles, while the No. 1 doubles team of Madi Kiser and Paige Patterson (6-3, 6-1) also picked up an early victory.

Kaia Clark/Bailey Sims (6-3, 6-3) earned Flowery Branch’s lone win in the No. 2 doubles over Paige Ackerman/Sally Callahan. Gainesville's Haley Frankum won the first set 6-3 in the No. 2 singles, but the match was called after Waggoner defeated Flowery Branch's Brick. 

Waggoner said Gainesville was excited to face its rival in the title match, especially after last season’s close loss to the Falcons in the 8-AAAAA championship match.

“We all really wanted to beat them,” Waggoner said. “It’s a lot scarier at state, because everyone’s so good, but we’ll have fun either way.”

Gainesville fell to Riverwood in the opening round of last year’s Class AAAAA state playoffs, while Flowery Branch fell to eventual champion Cambridge in the quarterfinals.

GAINESVILLE BOYS TENNIS TEAM CLINCHES NO. 3 SEED IN STATE TOURNAMENT: The No. 2 doubles team of Trevor Munn/Max Wuest proved to be the most important win of the day for Gainesville as the Red Elephants clinched the No. 3 seed in next week’s Class AAAAA state tournament.

Senior Munn and sophomore Wuest fought back from a set down to win 2-6, 6-3, 6-4 and clinch a 3-1 victory over Flowery Branch in the consolation match Thursday afternoon at Longwood Park.

Gainesville will next travel to play the No. 2 seed from Region 5-AAAAA, while Flowery Branch will travel to play the No. 1 seed from Region 5-AAAAA. Both matches must be played by April 21.

The Red Elephants have reached the state tournament each of the last four years with coach C.J. Weaver at the helm. Gainesville defeated Flowery Branch 3-2 in the regular season.

Reagan Williams (6-1, 6-0) topped Ryan Kerul in the No. 1 singles, while Gainesville also picked up a win in the No. 1 doubles. Flowery Branch earned a win in the No. 3 singles pairing.

Gainesville was leading 5-2 in the 3rd set before Flowery Branch’s team of Dominick Garcia/Dylan Klerlain closed the gap to 5-4. However, Munn/Wuest were able to pull off a narrow escape.

Gainesville fell 3-2 to Riverwood in the opening round of last year’s state playoffs, while Flowery Branch suffered a close 3-2 loss to North Springs.

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