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North Hall boys blank Whitewater 5-0 in first round of tennis playoffs
Trojans advance to face Eagles Landing in Round of 16
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North Hall's Paxton Gillespie and Daniel Martin shake hands with Whitewater's Carter Golovach and Josh Bell after their doubles match in the first-round playoff match in Gainesville. The Trojans won 5-0. - photo by Erin O. Smith

North Hall boys tennis coach Bob Woodworth saw enough positives in his team’s first-round playoff win Wednesday to believe it can get through the pesky second-round wall.

The Trojans swept Whitewater in straight sets, 5-0, in Gainesville to earn their third consecutive berth in the Round of 16 of the postseason. That’s been the barrier North Hall hasn’t been able to break through. Woodworth said his team hasn’t made it past the second round of state since he took over as coach in 2003.

This year, he thinks, may be different.

“We retained our concentration well and stayed focused with no let-ups today,” said Woodworth. “Not a bad way to begin what we hope is a deep run in the playoffs.”

With the win, the Trojans move on to face Eagles Landing next week in McDonough. Exact time and day for the second-round Class AAAA match is still to be determined.

North Hall won 3-2 when it played Eagles Landing, the 4-AAAA champion, at the LaGrange Tournament in March.

“We’re excited to be here,” said senior Jackson Davis, who won 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. “We’re just going to keep a positive mindset as we keep going in the playoffs.”

Against Whitewater, the Trojans built a nice cushion with quick wins by Paxton Gillespie and Daniel Martin at No. 1 doubles, and Matthew Chewning and Masa Kobayashi at the other doubles pairing.

Once a court was opened up, Reid Lattanzi started playing at No. 3 singles and was allowed to finish his 6-0, 6-3 match, which was a predetermined decision between the two coaches, even though the Trojans had already secured the victory.

In No. 2 singles, Dalton Patterson was steady from beginning to end in his match, winning 6-2, 6-0, despite nagging knee pain.

“We have a strong team,” said Chewning. “I’m surprised how easily we won today.

“It’s a good way to begin our run at trying to win state.”

Woodworth also hopes the experience of this 2016 group of Trojans comes in handy when it comes to tighter matches in the playoffs.

Five of North Hall’s starters are seniors, including all three singles competitors. These seniors also hold a special place in Woodworth’s program, the coach pointed out. This senior class is the first to come all the way through the North Hall Junior Tennis program since it started when these boys were in middle school. With that extra playing experience, these guys have almost been completely intact for six years now.

“We’re like a family on this team,” said Patterson. “We know each others strengths and weaknesses and we’re there to pick each other up when needed.”

Jackson, who is playing at No. 1 singles for the second year, said he’d like to clean some things up from his own effort against Whitewater’s Aaron Chan. A three-year starter for the Trojans, Davis said he’d like to improve on his serves and volleys against Eagles Landing.

The biggest improvement for North Hall since facing Eagles Landing the first go-around, according to Gillespie, has been their play with the two doubles teams. He hopes that bodes well for the Trojans’ chances to get into the state quarterfinals.

“We’re excited to be able to play Eagles Landing again,” said Gillespie. “We all really want to be able to make it to the Elite 8.”

NORTH HALL GIRLS 3, CARROLLTON 2 (TUESDAY): Annalise Gregory and Sydney Patterson provded the deciding win at No. 2 doubles in the first-round playoff match on the road to secure a spot in the Round of 16.

Tied 1-1 with the match on the line, Gregory and Patterson rallied from a 5-3 hole in the third set, winning the next four games and lock up a 7-5 victory.

With the win, North Hall visits Cook County in the second round on Monday in Adel.

Against Carrollton, North Hall’s No. 1 doubles team of Courtney Barnes and MaKenzie Bryant won 6-0, 6-1.

Christen Barnes won at No. 2 singles for North Hall.