FLOWERY BRANCH — West Hall senior Connor McFall always wants to know how everybody else is doing during a tennis match.
He also knows that having that knowledge isn’t always the best for his own game, so he tried not to focus on the sounds of Spartans fans clapping and cheering Tuesday against Dalton.
“I heard everybody clapping, but I wanted to stay focused on my own match,” the Spartans No. 2 singles player said. “Although, I was curious.”
His focus was rewarded when he walked off the court with a 6-3, 6-3 win over Dalton’s Nathan Bryant, clinching a 3-0 win for West Hall in the first round of the state tournament Tuesday at Alberta Banks Park.
“I didn’t realize it, which probably made things a little better because I get nervous if I do know that I can can clinch it,” McFall said. “It felt good though.”
The Spartans will play the winner of LaGrange/Riverwood in the second round. The deadline for the match to be played is May 1st.
If it’s No. 1 LaGrange, it’s a rematch of last year’s first-round matchup, which West Hall lost 3-2.
“If we play LaGrange, it’s definitely going to be a battle,” McFall said.
His coach, John McFall, feels better about a possible state rematch now that his players know what to expect.
“I think it gives us a lot of confidence,” he said. “We have pretty much our same team back, and I don’t think they graduated anybody.
“They are definitely the favorites, but we have a chance.”
West Hall senior Brenden Worth, part of the No. 1 doubles team (along with junior Min Kim) that won 6-1, 6-0 to put the hosts ahead 1-0 early, remembers advancing to the third round in 2010.
“We lost a heartbreaker 3-2,” Worth said. “We’re hoping to make it really far this year, hoping to make the Elite Eight.
“As a team we’re very well distributed.”
It’s due, in part, to Worth, who switched from No. 1 singles to No. 1 doubles this year to add depth to the team.
“I took the challenge to help this team,” he said. “And I’m a doubles person, I’ve just always played high school singles.”
So Worth knows all too well what it’s like for a singles player to hear cheering from the doubles court.
“They feed off it,” he said. “That’s got to pump them up whenever they see us come up with a good win.”
It must have worked, because No. 3 singles player Tatum Scroggs wrapped up a 6-1, 6-0 win over Will Alderman soon after the No. 1 doubles win over BJ Rowland/Thomas Delay to put the home team ahead 2-0.
“It definitely gave us a boost,” coach McFall said of the early 2-0 advantage.
It also put Connor McFall in the spotlight.
“He was up 5-0 in the second, it looked like he relaxed a bit when he heard the cheering, and almost let the guy come back,” the coach said. “But he finished it.”
The senior disputed his status as being the clincher afterward.
“Technically I clinched it, but I wouldn’t say I was the clincher,” McFall said. “I’d say our No. 1 doubles had a little more fight to pull it through.”
The No. 2 singles match did, however, seem even more important after the fact. With the match in hand, No. 1 singles and No. 2 doubles finished up, with Dalton winning both to make it an unofficial 3-2 finish. Dalton’s Hunter Carson defeated Max Wilson 6-4, 6-1 and the team of PK Bhatter/Mitchell Wilson held off Grayson Kyle/Sam Pinson 4-6, 6-1 (10-8).