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Gainesville High girls topple South Paulding in opening round of tennis playoffs
Gainesville High's Katherine Wright returns a volley against South Paulding during the opening round of the Class AAAAA playoffs Monday at Longwood Park. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

The Gainesville High girls tennis team cruised into the second round of the GHSA Class AAAAA playoffs with a decisive 5-0 opening-round win against South Paulding on Monday at Longwood Park.

“They really took control of the match early on,” said Gainesville co-coach Kendall Gruhn said. “They’re so in shape. They’ve stayed in shape, and I think that has been a huge help. They just got up early, and they stayed up.”

The No. 1 singles match saw Gainesville’s Katherine Wright defeat South Paulding’s Claire Atcheson (6-1, 6-1).

“We have a strong Katherine at No. 1,” Gainesville co-coach Kelly Smith said. “She gets the job done. Tell her to win, she wins. Just the leadership quality in her. She’s real mature. She knows what to do. She figures out what kind of game she needs to play.”

The other matches saw No. 2 singles Haley Frankum defeat Emma Clarke (6-1, 6-1), No. 3 singles Ali Waggoner defeat Lydia Norton (6-1, 6-0) and No. 1 doubles Madi Kiser and Paige Patterson defeat Morgan Fraser and Sarai Brooks (6-0, 6-1).

The most competitive match of the day was in No. 2 doubles. Gainesville’s Sally Callahan and Paige Ackerman had to win a back-and-fourth first set with South Paulding’s Emma Talley and Hannah Brooks via tiebreaker 7-6(7-2). Callahan and Ackerman were able to close out the second set, 6-0, to give the Lady Red Elephants the sweep over the Lady Spartans.

“These girls are confident, but they’re humble at the same time,” Gruhn said. “They never take anything for granted. They didn’t take today for granted. We didn’t know exactly the level of South Paulding coming in, so they were ready.

“They were ready to go. They were nervous, but they took control. I think next round is going to be a little bit different, but they’re going to be ready nonetheless.”

In the Round of 16, the Lady Red Elephants will face the winner of LaGrange/McIntosh. The game has not yet been scheduled, but Smith said she was shooting for Thursday as second round games need to be completed by April 26.

Gainesville is looking to make the quarterfinals for the second time in the last three years.

“You can’t go and have a bad day,” Smith said. “You got to have your ‘A’ game on, and if you don’t, you’re going to get beat.
“You can’t get down when you lose a game or make a couple of bad shots. You can’t mentally get down because if you do, you’ll lose it.”

As region champions and the No. 1 seed out of Region 8, Gainesville will host the second round regardless of the matchup, a fact that is not lost on the coaches.

“It’s huge,” Gruhn said. “(Longwood Park) is home, and they feel at home. We’re out here all the time for practice and to get a crowd, it means a lot. So we’re really going to work on getting a bigger crowd next time.”