Though only a 16-year-old junior, Matt Booth is effectively the grizzled veteran of a young North Hall boys tennis team.
As the eldest member of a program otherwise made up of 10 sophomores and a freshman, he bears as much or more responsibility for setting the tone against the Trojans’ opponents than any member of the roster.
On Wednesday, he and No. 1 doubles partner Paxton Gillespie set a clear tone against Sonoraville in the opening round of the Class AAA state playoffs — one geared toward keeping things short and sweet.
Booth and Gillespie made short work of Sonoraville opponents Tate Moore and Dalton Wiles, 6-0, 6-2, and the top-seeded Trojans picked up their first state tournament victory since 2007 with a 3-0 win over the No. 4 seed Phoenix at North Hall High.
“Paxton and I were just ready to play,” Booth said. “We took advantage of every point, made smart shots and just played our best.”
North Hall (18-3) advances to face Blessed Trinity, the No. 2 seed from Region 6-AAA, in the second round. The Titans swept Hart County in their opening round match.
The Trojans also picked up wins against Sonoraville from Jeffery Kiser at No. 1 singles, 6-0, 6-1 against Tyler Bowers, and Jackson Davis at No. 2 singles, 6-1, 6-0 against Brad Whitinghill. North Hall’s No. 2 doubles team of Dawson Smith and Reid Lattazi later picked up a 6-4, 6-0 win after the deciding matches had wrapped up.
North Hall coach Bob Woodworth said Booth and Gillespie — the first Trojans to wrap up their match against the Phoenix on Wednesday — have meant more to the team this season than their ability to dominate their own matches.
“I think with (a couple exceptions) they have won every match in spectacular fashion,” Woodworth said. “They provide energy for the rest of team. If you watch them, they are always screaming; people are always feeding off their energy.”
The Trojans have won their last five matches, including their first region championship in program history last week courtesy of a 3-2 victory over Buford.
Woodworth said his players have grown by leaps and bounds this season, often noticeably within a single match.
“You can watch them grow during a match and they’re going to get better every match, so they’re having a great time,” he said.
“They’re so young and so new at it, they can figure something out (in the middle of a match) that they haven’t gotten yet.”
North Hall will host Blessed Trinity next week. Game day and time have yet to be determined.
RIVERSIDE MILITARY BOYS 3, WESLEYAN 1: The Eagles moved to 13-0 on the season with a victory over the Wolves in the first round of the Class AA state playoffs in Gainesville. Riverside’s Merritt Wilburn won at No. 1 singles 6-1, 6-0, while the No. 1 doubles team of Drew Eidson and Josh Haughton won 6-1, 6-3, and the No. 2 doubles team of D’erron Patterson and Daniel Mcherron won 6-4, 1-6, 6-4. The Eagles advance to host Model High in the second round next week.
GAC GIRLS 3, JEFFERSON 0: The Lady Dragons fell to the Lady Spartans in the first round of the Class AA state tournament on Wednesday in Jefferson. Jefferson’s season is now complete.
GAC BOYS 3, JEFFERSON 1: The Dragons suffered a 3-1 loss to the Spartans in the first round of the Class AA state tournament on Wednesday in Jefferson. Gage Thompson picked up the lone victory for Jefferson in singles competition, 6-0, 6-0. Jefferson’s season is now complete.
MARIST BOYS 3, CHESTATEE 0: The War Eagles fell to Marist in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament on Wednesday in Atlanta. Marist won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles. Chestatee’s season is now complete.
MARIST GIRLS 3, CHESTATEE 0: The Lady War Eagles fell to defending state champion Marist in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament on Wednesday in Atlanta. Marist won at No. 1 and No. 2 singles and No. 2 doubles. Chestatee’s season is now complete.