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Prep tennis: Knights season ends with first round loss
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Listen to Johnson coach Marsha Wilkes talk about her team's season and first-round loss.

OAKWOOD — After completing its mission of winning the Region 7-AAA boys tennis championship last Thursday, the Johnson boys tennis team began a new journey in the state playoffs.

Unfortunately for the Class AAA second ranked-Knights (16-5, 11-2 Region 7-AAA), that journey ended on Monday night with a 3-2 defeat at the hands of Region 5-AAA’s Dunwoody.

"You can’t beat being region champs," Johnson coach Martha Wilkes said. "It’s disappointing we’re not going onto the next round, but somebody has to win and somebody has to lose.

"It’s been a great season."

The loss also ends Wilkes’ tenure at Johnson as she is retiring this year after 32 years of teaching.

With the game tied 2-2, the match was decided by the outcome of the No. 3 singles matches, in which Dunwoody junior Daniel Keslensky defeated Johnson’s Billy Hulsey 6-4, 6-2.

"Billy’s a senior and we knew he could handle the pressure," Wilkes said. "He did everything he could."

Both coaches had a feeling that the match would be decided by the No. 3 singles.

"We knew they had really good No. 1 and No. 2 singles players," Dunwoody coach Tom McFerrin said. "Daniel’s (Keslensky) has been a solid player all year and if I could have anybody at No. 3 it would be him."

Keslensky’s win ended what started as a commanding performance by Johnson’s singles players.

Johnson’s No. 1 singles player, senior Seth Hester, who entered the state tournament undefeated in region play, continued his dominance with a 6-0, 6-0 straight set victory over Dunwoody (4-5, 6-13 Region 5-AAA) freshman Keith Singleton.

"My opponent wasn’t bad at all. I just played pretty decent today," said Hester, who gave his team an early 1-0 lead with the win.

Also playing well was fellow senior No. 2 singles player Brandon Sloan, who defeated Dunwoody freshman Robbie Spencer in straight sets (6-2, 6-2) on the court adjacent to Hester.

But while Sloan and Hester were controlling the singles matches, Dunwoody’s pair of doubles teams were proving to be equally as dominant as the Knights’ singles players had been.

The No. 1 doubles team of Evan Brown and Nathan Singleton and No. 2 doubles pair of John Kiser and Thomas Colden easily handled Johnson’s doubles teams, with both winning in straight sets. Brown and Singleton defeated the team of T.J. Williams and Stephen Hester 6-1, 6-3 while Kiser and Colden beat the team of William Anthony and Scott Allen 7-5, 6-2.

"We knew it would be tough," Wilkes said of the match with Dunwoody.

After graduating five of the seven members of the varsity team last year, McFerrin admitted that he was a bit shocked by the outcome of the match.

"We were surprised to make it back in the top four of our region," said the sixth-year coach who has only one senior and three freshman on this year’s roster. "We thought it was going to be a rebuilding year and now we’re headed to the sweet 16."

Dunwoody will take on Carrollton in the next round of the state playoffs. Johnson’s season is now complete.

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