Before the start of the season, North Hall tennis coach Bob Woodworth told his players to record their goals on paper. To the coach’s delight, one was more prominently stated than others.
So even after Monday’s Class 3A semifinal match at Westminster School, during which Woodworth’s girls team suffered a 3-0 defeat to fellow one-seed Westminster, Woodworth picked up more positive vibes from his girls than anything else.
The Lady Trojans met their primary objective of reaching the state semifinals for the first time in school history, all done without a senior presence.
The match itself, which featured Westminster sweeping three of five lines in less than one hour, did not reflect the great sense of accomplishment felt by Woodworth’s young bunch.
The coach said he only hopes his players can dream bigger in terms of goals to conquer for the years to come.
“Of course they’re disappointed, but I know they (were) thrilled about being here,” said Woodworth, who has coached both the North Hall boys and girls programs for the last 15 years.
“I’m thrilled for the way they prepared and focused on this match. And even during the match, they may have seen they were overpowered, but they stayed right with it.”
Meanwhile, Westminster advances to its 15th-consecutive state final, said its long-tenured coach Scoot Dimon. The Wildcats face the winner of Lovett and Calhoun on Saturday in Clayton County at a time to be determined.
In 2016, Westminster was forced to vacate the state championship after a substitution violation, according to the GHSA.
Facing a perennial power of that caliber like Westminster, one that has been a steady presence on the championship stage for at least a decade, only presents more opportunity for growth, Woodworth said.
“They are right here in the heart of metro Atlanta tennis,” added Woodworth. “They’re gonna be well trained, they’ve been playing for years. And they are just one step above us. It really showed us what we need to do to get better.”
Westminster first found the board through its No. 2 tandem of Claire Corbin/Cyan D’Anjou, which swept North Hall’s Carsen Baumgartner/Raquel Kallab in straight-set fashion (6-1, 6-0). The Wildcats tallied their second point behind Grace Staes at No. 1 singles, who invoked a game of power on North Hall’s No. 1 Anna Montgomery to win 6-0, 6-0.
Sydney Patterson/Annalise Gregory were down a set (1-6), though were only down a break at 2-3 when the hosts clinched the fourth-round victory at the No. 2 singles from the bottom level of the facility, as North Hall's Lauren Davis fell in straight sets (6-1, 6-0) to Westminster's Mackenzi Stewart. The North Hall pair still finished the match but fell 6-4 in the final set.
North Hall junior Christen Barnes in No. 3 singles, who dropped the opening set 6-2 against Westminster’s Abby Seitz, was for a moment on the cusp of splitting before ultimately falling 6-4 in the second set.
North Hall is comprised of two juniors, two sophomores and six freshmen, yet it finished the regular season 18-4 overall and as Region 7-3A champs.
The Lady Trojans embarked on an unconventional path this postseason, twice having to adjust matches due to inclement weather.
But North Hall dropped only one line on the way to making program history.
Rainy forecasts in the week prior pushed back the second-round match with Cook. And less than 24 hours after reaching the third round, North Hall pulled off a gutsy finish behind its three singles lines, with three-set victor Anna Montgomery at No. 1 singles sealing the quarterfinal win.
“It (was) great to be here (in the state final four), especially with no seniors and a bunch of freshman on the team,” Woodworth said. “So we see where we need to be next year.”