The debut in the state tennis finals was a brief one for North Hall’s girls with a 3-0 loss to Pace Academy in the Class 4A championship match Saturday at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.
However, despite the loss, head coach Bob Woodworth was confident that the experience of this season, which ended with a 20-5 record and a state runner-up finish, the best in school history, will be a valuable one for the future of the Lady Trojans’ program.
“Right now, I’m kind of stung with disappointment for the kids,” Woodworth said. “But it’s great to get here, and kind of looking to the future, these kids knew they had a terribly difficult opponent. Everything, it seemed like, was going against them, (but) they didn’t lay down.
“They gave it their all, so I’m proud of them for that. I’m looking forward to carrying that (accomplishment forward).”
The Lady Trojans found themselves in a grind from the start, with Ella Kate Canaday, Gabbie Jenkins and Lilly Perry all falling into early hole in their singles matches.
But after Canaday and Jenkins dropped their first sets to Caitlyn Pinsker and Claire Jaing respectively at No. 1 and 2 singles, the North Hall pair began to rally after each fell behind a break early in their second sets to pull back on serve.
Then with the doubles team of Kate Rogers and Callie Clark having dropped a 6-1, 6-0 decision to Brooke Brumfield and Nilaya Nag to give Pace a 1-0 lead in the overall match, the Lady Trojans’ No. 1 doubles team of Riley Morgan and Maggie Perry began an even bigger surge.
The North Hall duo rebounded after dropping the opening set to Nayana Nag and Lawson Monroe 6-2 to take a 3-0 lead in the second set.
Then after falling behind again at 4-3, Morgan and Perry rallied again to win the next two games, and were just a point away from evening their match at a set apiece.
“It absolutely is (something to build on),” Woodworth said of how his players fought back in their respective second sets. “What’s going on with that, I think, is the attitude that they have built and the culture that they have built.
“It doesn’t matter (how much they were down), they were coming back. A lot of times when you lose a set or when you win a set against somebody, you can pull back a little bit and give up. That didn’t happen with our kids, and I’m super proud of that.”
But before Morgan and Maggie Perry could complete their second-set comeback, Pace’s Caileigh Pinsker was able to close out here match with Lilly Perry at No. 3 singles 6-3, 6-1 and Jaing was able to complete a 6-1, 6-2 victory over Jenkins at No. 2 singles to secure the Lady Knights’ eighth state title, and end the Lady Trojans’ historic postseason run.
However, with most of the team set to return next year, Woodworth is convinced the best still lies ahead for the North Hall program.
“Hopefully, (we’ll see) the same thing (for next season), … but a better outcome,” Woodworth said.