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High school tennis: Four local teams make state playoffs, will vie for region title
North Hall’s Cara Reece returns a volley during her match at Alberta Banks Park Thursday afternoon during the region 7-AAA tennis tournament. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

Region 7-AAA tennis tournament

Where: Alberta Banks Park, Flowery Branch

Girls: Creekview vs. Flowery Branch, 10 a.m., West Forsyth vs. Johnson, 10 a.m.

Boys: Creekview vs. West Forsyth, 11:30 a.m., Gainesville vs. West Hall, 11:30 a.m.

Girls region finals begin at 2 p.m.

Boys region finals begin at 3:30 p.m.

FLOWERY BRANCH — Prior to the start of the 2009 season, the Johnson girls tennis team set one goal: make it to the state playoffs.

Behind the leadership of their four seniors and a gutsy performance at No. 2 singles by Kamy Fields, the Lady Knights achieved that goal with a 3-1 win against Region 7-AAA No. 2 seed North Hall at the Region 7-AAA tennis tournament Thursday at Alberta Banks Park.

"(North Hall) has always been a state contender and it’s been a while since we’ve been back," Johnson coach Tammy Green said. "It was a goal of ours at the beginning of the season and with great senior leadership and getting better each time we’ve played, we achieved it."

Senior Laura Gazaway along with fellow senior and No. 1 doubles partner Annabeth Peace notched the first win for Johnson with a 6-2, 6-4 victory against North Hall’s Rachel Langman and Gayanne Agnew.

"(Making state) is the best feeling," Gazaway said. "We have worked so hard this year and we’ve really pushed each other in practice."

Johnson’s No. 2 doubles team of Claire Crain/Harlee Robson followed that up with a 6-4, 6-4 win of their own against Katherine Wessely/Anna Eades.

North Hall got its first win in No. 1 singles when Cara Reece defeated Cady Nix (6-3, 6-1).

With the score 2-1 Johnson, Fields came through with a tie-break win against Becca Wren (6-0, 7-6) to send the Lady Knights into the region semifinals and the state playoffs.

"The whole time I was just thinking that I needed to keep my feet moving and get the ball over the net," Fields said. "I was overjoyed, I was just so happy."

Before Johnson makes its first state tournament appearance since 2003, it will have to contend with sixth-ranked West Forsyth, the No. 1 seed out of 7B-AAA, in the region semifinals.

The Lady Wolverines came into the region tournament having swept all but four matches on the season, excluding their two losses to Buford and Milton.

They continued that domination with a 4-0 quarterfinal win against Lumpkin County, which made it to the second round of the region tournament by beating Chestatee earlier in the day.

Susan Cropper and Sarah Fogg won their singles matches in straight sets, while the doubles teams of Katherine Harris/Carolina Wallner and Sydney Niem/Savannah Miller also won in straight sets.

"I think they did a good job today," West Forysth coach James Hallewell said. "The state rankings really don’t mean much when you get to this point of the season but the girls played well and I’m proud of them."

Class AAA’s No. 2 ranked Creekview will play Flowery Branch in the other girls semifinal.

The Lady Grizzlies remained undefeated on the year with a 3-0 win against West Hall.

Emily Waters and Ashlyn Hulsey each notched straight sets wins for Creekview in singles play. The doubles team of Bethany Story/Kayla Cansler got the match sealing win with a 6-3, 6-4 win against West Hall’s Megan Finecey/Kelly Lingle.

"After coming from AA and just making an appearance at the region tournament last year, I thought we did well," Creekview coach Jason Hubbard said. "For them to not lose a set while fighting off jitters was big. The girls came in really focused.

"With only two seniors and a bunch of young players, winning is going to be a matter of composure. We have the talent to compete with anyone here, but we’re going to have to stay focused."

The Lady Falcons beat Gilmer 3-1, with senior No. 2 singles player Megan Grewitt winning the deciding match 6-3, 6-2.

Other winners for Flowery Branch were the doubles team of Elizabeth Mallory/Nicki Price and Morgan Reed/Lindsey Shaw.

"The girls were consistent today and just got the job done," Flowery Branch coach Ginger Jackson said. "We’re going into this match against Creekview knowing that we can beat anybody on any given day as long as we do our job.

"We think we can win."

With play running behind upwards of an hour, the boys tennis teams that made it to the quarterfinal round did their fair share of sitting and waiting before hurrying up to play.

However, neither the excitement nor the level of play was diminished by the players having soaked for long periods of time in the afternoon sun.

Sixth-ranked Creekview was the first team to make it into the region semifinals with a 3-0 win against Johnson.

The Grizzlies will play West Forsyth, which made it to the semifinals with a sweep of Lumpkin County.

Fourth-ranked Gainesville was next, notching a 3-2 win against Pickens.

As has been the case all season, the doubles teams of Robbie Bilbrough/Drew Denning (6-0, 6-0) and Corey McDonald/Louis Hokayem (6-0, 6-1) started things off with straight sets wins.

The foursome have been and remain undefeated in region play on the season.

They then turned their attention to the team’s singles players to see which would put the nail in the coffin.

"We’re all about family here," Gainesville coach James Lingenfelter said. "We’ve always said that tennis may be an individual sport, but we’re a team."

Gainesville’s No. 1 singles player Ryan Joiner won the deciding match for the Red Elephants in straight sets.

"We’re feeling good," Lingenfelter said. "We’re taking it one step at a time and while we had to sit around a lot today, we love tennis and love competition and got the job done."

The girls region semifinals start at 10 a.m. today while the boys action will begin at approximately 11:30. The girls region finals will start at 2 p.m. and the boys will follow.

All games will be played at Alberta Banks Park in Flowery Branch.

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