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Prep tennis: North Hall girls pursue perfect season
Cara Reece serves a volley during North Hall’s Tuesday afternoon match with Gainesville High at the North Hall tennis courts. Reece competed against Gainesville High’s number-one seeded Stephanie Olson. - photo by Scott Rogers | The Times

The 2008 season for the North Hall girls tennis team can be summed up in one word, dominant.

Ranked second in Class AAA, the Lady Trojans are a perfect 15-0 on the season, and 11-0 in Region 7-AAA. To top it all off, North Hall has recorded 11 shutouts on the season, and have only been tested twice this year, both 3-2 wins against Region 7-AAA opponent Gilmer.

Like most successful programs, depth can be attributed to the Lady Trojans run at a perfect season."All of our players are about the same," North Hall coach Roger Fannon said. "There’s not a large difference in ability from the top player to the bottom player and that’s what makes us really strong in matches."

While there may not be a vast difference in talent level amongst the girls, there is a difference in regards to the age of the No. 1 singles player, Cara Reece and No. 1 doubles team of Lauren Bolton and Courtney Wiley.

Reece, a freshman, is the younger sister of Cayla Reece, who starred on the tennis court at Gainesville High and was the Times Area girls Tennis Player of the Year for 2006 and 2007. But regardless of the expectations that come with being the younger sister of a proven tennis player, as well as the youngest member on one of the state’s best teams, Reece feels no pressure.

"There was pressure at first and I was really nervous at the beginning of the year, but I’ve kind of gotten used to it," said Reece. "I just try and stay focused and do my best in order to win."

And win she has. With her 6-0, 6-0 straight-set win against Gainesville’s Stephanie Olson on Tuesday, Reece improved her overall record to 12-3.

"Cara Reece has really stepped up," Wiley said.

While the play of the freshman has been a pleasant surprise for North Hall, the success of the doubles team of Bolton and Wiley is nothing out of the ordinary.

In 2007, the doubles tandem went 22-1 and this year, the duo are a perfect 15-0 and haven’t lost a set all year.

"We’ve just tried to continue from our success last year," Bolton said. "That was important to us because we don’t like losing."

According to Bolton’s doubles partner, their success this year and last was never expected.

"Our freshman year we were really goofy and not focusing," Wiley admitted.

But over the years, the pair, along with fellow seniors Hayley Crowder (No. 2 singles) and Mary Beth Brown (No. 2 doubles) have started to focus more on bettering their play on the court, and in doing so have made their teammates and team better.

"Our seniors are great and they are good leaders," Fannon said. "They’re always picking each other up and telling each other what to do and it’s good to have that type of leadership. I can’t be at all four matches at one time, so that helps."

When not helping with the coaching, the seniors are providing Fannon with stability. Wiley and Bolton are as consistent as they come at No. 1 doubles, Brown competes in both No. 2 doubles and No. 3 singles, and in regards to Crowder, who has lost only four times in her four-year career at North Hall, the Lady Trojans coach said she was the player that he could count on the most.

"I know if we need to win a match then she’ll come through for us," said the second-year coach of the Lady Trojans.

The depth and consistency of the Lady Trojans doesn’t stop with the four seniors and lone freshman. Three juniors, Jessica Butts, Rachel Langman and Lauren Hodges, complete the Lady Trojans roster, and play just as integral role in the team’s success.

Like Brown, Butts plays both singles and doubles. On Tuesday against Gainesville, Butts played at No. 3 singles and won in three sets, and when she’s teamed up with Langman at No. 2 doubles, the duo is nearly unbeatable. Since last season, the Langman/Butts doubles team has lost only one time, to Dunwoody during the second round of the 2007 state playoffs.

Not only was that loss the last loss of the Langman/Butts duo, but it was also the last loss by North Hall, as the Wildcats ended the Lady Trojans season a year ago with 5-0 win in the playoffs.

A return trip to the state playoffs is certainly in the cards for North Hall, but the Lady Trojans are not focusing on the rest of the teams in the state, their one concern now is the remaining two games in the region.

"I don’t think it’s that important to finish undefeated," Fannon said. "We just want to try and get better every match and prepare for the region tournament."

In that region tournament, the Lady Trojans could face their toughest test of the year in Class AAA’s third-ranked team West Forsyth.

"We’re not looking past anybody," Fannon said. "We want to win region and get in the best seed we can get for the state tournament."

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