West Hall tennis coach John McFall knew the difficult task that awaited his team Friday at the Bobby Bailey Tennis Center.
After topping Stephens County, the top seed in the Region 8-AAA North subregion, 3-0 in the semifinals of the region tournament, the Spartans were tasked with finding a way to beat Oconee County — something no other team in the subregion had done all season.
West Hall put together strong performances across the board, but was unable to withstand Oconee County’s attack, losing 3-1 in the region tournament finals. The loss gives the Spartans a No. 2 seed in the state tournament. It will host Region 7-AAA’s No. 3 Dalton.
“We’re pretty dejected right now,” McFall said after the match. “We had two close matches with these guys during the regular season, but they’re a good team. I knew we’d need a great effort to overtake them today. I believed we were good enough, and I still believe we are. Just didn’t get it done.”
West Hall’s Tatum Scroggs picked up a win in No. 3 singles (6-0, 6-0) early to give West Hall a 1-0 team lead, and the improbable suddenly seemed like more of a possibility.
But Connor McFall (No. 2 singles) and Brenden Worth/Min Kim (No. 1 doubles) both lost in quick succession to drop the Spartans to their final chance.
Sam Pinson and Grayson Kyle held a 6-4, 4-3 lead in No. 2 doubles, but were unable to finish their match when Oconee County picked up its third win, at No. 1 singles, to take the title.
“We had a couple of guys play the best they have all season,” McFall said. “But it takes three to win, and unfortunately we didn’t have that.”
The Gainesville girls faced a similar situation in their final match.
The Lady Red Elephants beat upstart Johnson 3-0 in the semifinals, but, like West Hall, dropped the championship to Oconee County 3-1.
With the second seed out of the region in the state tournament, Gainesville will also take on Dalton.
“They played their hardest,” coach Kellie Stevens said. “That’s all I could ask for. We’re in a better position than we were last year, so that’s good. We’re still young.”
The Lady Red Elephants picked up their lone win in No. 1 doubles (Morgan Mercer and Suzanne Smith), who won 6-1, 6-3. Georgia Summer was in a good position to pick up another win when the match was completed. She had just won her second set 6-3 to tie the match at one set apiece.
Gainesville’s final loss came in No. 2 doubles (6-4, 7-5).
“Oconee County is a great team, but we’re going to face even tougher competition at the next level,” Stevens said. “This prepares us for that level of competition.”
The Gainesville boys rounded out the tournament with a win over Stephens County in the consolation round, 3-1, to give them a No. 3 seed in the state tournament. The Red Elephants will face Heritage-Catoosa in the first round.
Connor McMorrow won at No. 1 singles, and No. 1 doubles (Jake Maddox/Graham McKinnon) and No. 2 doubles (Alexander Davis/Jake McCardel) rounded out the team victory.
The Johnson girls lost their consolation final to Lanier 3-0. Senior Harlee Robson was ahead in No. 2 singles when the match finished. She was going for her third consecutive win against her opponent this season.
The Lady Knights will face Allatoona in the first round. It will be Johnson’s fourth consecutive appearance at state.
“Going to state is fun,” coach Tammy Green said, “but we want to do more than that this time. The opportunity is there.”