FLOWERY BRANCH — West Hall boys tennis coach John McFall walked away from Thursday’s Region 7-AAA finals with a pretty good feeling.
Despite a 3-0 loss to heavy favorite Lambert in the championship match at Alberta Banks Park, the Spartans are heading to the Class AAA state tournament with a No. 2 seed, meaning at least one more day of tennis on their home court of the Bobby Bailey tennis center.
This marks West Hall’s ninth consecutive playoff berth. The Spartans advanced to the finals with a 3-1 win against Gainesville in the semifinals, with individual victories from Connor McFall, Max Wilson and the doubles pairing of Andrew Johnson/Nathan Turner.
“Our goal was to win in all, but you have to be realistic when you’re playing a team like Lambert,” McFall said. “We feel good about the fact we get to play a lower seed (from Region 6-AAA) to open the playoffs.”
Despite not scoring in the championship match, West Hall’s doubles team of Jimmy Kincaid/Tyler Burgamy were winning 6-2, 5-2 before play was called with the Longhorns’ third win.
Lambert won the region title behind singles victories from Jake Bouchillion, Kevin Duffey and Chase Wakefield. In its only season playing in Region 7-AAA, the Longhorns cruised to the region title without losing a single match, including a 3-0 semifinals victory against West Forsyth.
“This feels great to win a region title,” Lambert doubles player Zuban Irani said. “It’s a big win for our school.
“We’re looking forward to winning a state title now and inspiring future tennis players at Lambert.”
The Lambert girls won the first athletic region title in the school’s history, right before the boys’ finals match was conducted to give the school both region championships. The Lady Longhorns also won without losing a match in the two-day tournament, including a 3-0 win in the finals against West Forsyth. Karlee Bryde won in singles, and the doubles pairings of Taylor Lofton/Morgan Adams and Kate Trinkle/Lauren Ewers picked up wins for the Lady Longhorns.
The Lambert girls advanced to the finals with a 3-0 win in the semifinals against Flowery Branch earlier in the day.
“It feels amazing to win the region title,” Lambert coach Ali Conley said. “The girls were so excited to play today after they got those first day jitters out of the way.”
For the boys, West Forsyth wrapped up the No. 3 spot with a 3-0 win against Gainesville in the third-place match. Austin Todd and Christian Stanko won in singles for the Wolverines, and Jesse Magnussen/Edmond Duffy won in doubles. With the win, West Forsyth has qualified for the playoffs in both seasons in Region 7-AAA.
“I’m very pleased with our performance,” West Forsyth coach Phil Lyerly said. “We prepared hard and came out and played well.”
The Red Elephants are the fourth seed headed to state as a result of a 3-2 quarterfinal victory against North Hall from Wednesday. In the semifinals, Ryan Joiner picked up a singles victory for Gainesville.
The Flowery Branch girls are going back to state again this season as the No. 3 seed thanks to a 3-0 win in the third-place match against Johnson — a rematch of last year’s third-place match. Anna Kate Shaw and Morgan Reed won in singles for the Lady Falcons, and the doubles pairing of Nicki Price/Molly Smith won for Flowery Branch.
Meanwhile, Johnson is headed back to the playoffs as the No. 4 seed as a result of Wednesday’s upset of No. 1-seed Creekview in the quarterfinals. Lady Knights coach Tammy Green says that her team has improved with time on the court and has ample confidence after playing a grueling schedule this season. In the finals, Kamy Fields played well at No. 2 singles by taking her match to three sets, along with a solid effort from Maggie Turner.
“I think the competition we’ve faced is to our benefit now that we’re in the playoffs,” Green said.
The Class AAA state tournament opens with first-round matches played at the host site of the top two seeds. Times and dates for matches are still to be determined.