State tennis: Walton boys, girls sweep …. Taylor County takes emotional win

Walton became the first school to win the boys and girls championships in the largest division since they last did it in 2002. For the girls it was easy. For the boys it was much more difficult.

In the Class AAAAAA finals, the Walton girls powered through Kennesaw Mountain 3-0, while the Walton boys were pressed to the limit before taking a 3-2 victory over Northview.

The Walton girls have won three consecutive state championship and have won 13 of the last 15.

“Being seniors, they knew the drill,” Walton coach Christy Lewis said. “”They played with strength and confidence and it showed.”

Walton got wins from Bella Kuse and Johanna Keeline in singles and from the No. 2 doubles team of Jessica Cramer and Sophia Guildberry. The other matches were not completed, including No.1 singles player Suzanne Zenoni.

“It means a lot to our seniors to have won three straight,” Zenoni said. “It’s great to leave with a win.”

The Walton boys won their first title since 2002. The winning points came from No. 3 singles player Francis Yang, who clinched the victory with a second-set tiebreaker win over Northview’s Joseph Zhang.

Walton won the doubles matches behind the No. 1 team of Crews Enochsand Trevor Croyder and the No. 2 team of Jonathan He and Raymond Zhang.

But Northview battled back to get a win at No. 1 singles from Jeremy Yuan and at No. 2 singles from Matt Terry. Northview won the Class AAAAA championship last year.

Taylor County boys win for their cause

Taylor County’s Tucker Westbrook won the deciding match on Saturday to give his team the Class A Public championship and complete an emotional season that was dedicated to a teammate’s battle with cancer.

“We knew it was probably going to come down to me,” said Westbrook, who plays No. 3 singles. “All week long my stomach was churning. I even threw up on Thursday just thinking about it.”

Westbrook, the captain of the school’s basketball team, is accustomed to performing in clutch situations and responded with a 6-1, 6-3 win over Cameron Hyman of Drew Charter to give Taylor County its first tennis championship. Taylor won the match 3-2.

“I had been praying about it all week and once I got out there, God just gave me a peace,” Westbrook said. “I couldn’t let these guys down.”

It was the conclusion of an inspirational season that centered around senior Bobby Allen Brooks, who has been undergoing treatment for lymphoma since the first of the year. Many of the students and parents who made the trip to the International Park Tennis Center in Jonesboro were wearing purple T-shirts that carried the slogan “B.A. Fighter: Cancer You Got Served.”

Brooks lost his match to Drew’s Stephen Clemons at No. 1 singles. Drew also won the No. 2 singles match, with Roland Blanding defeating Adam Riley. But Taylor County prevailed at No. 1 doubles when Austin Sapp and Jon Gunn beat Michel Turpeau and Blake Turpeau. Taylor County’s No. 2 doubles team of Ret Tucker and Jacob Fowler won by forfeit.

That left it all in the hands of Westbrook, who was content to return deep lobs and shallow lowballs and wait for Hyman to make a mistake.

“We just wanted him to be consistent,” Taylor County coach Chris Cox said. “We knew he could hit anything back that was hit to him.”

The victory clinched a remarkable season for Taylor County. The Vikings had been to the state tournament for the previous eight years, but had never gotten past the first round. This year the Vikings emerged as the No. 4 team from Area 1, but wound up beating Commerce, Telfair County and defending champion Marion County to reach the final.

Cox began to build the program six years ago when he started at the middle school. The program is limited by having only two courts at the school, but has built the sort of camaraderie that is desired by all.

“We’re limited on court time and we’re limited on resources,” Cox said. “But it has allowed us to keep a tight-knit group and develop a team. They’ve all gotten better together.”

Class A Public: The Irwin County girls successfully defended their championship with a 3-0 win over Baconton.
Class A Private: The Stratford Academy boys won their first GHSA tennis championship, beating defending champion Brookstone 3-1. Stratford had won nine GISA tennis championship before moving to the GHSA this year. The Athens Academy girls beat Brookstone 3-1 to win their 10th championship and first since 2010.

Class A Private: The Stratford Academy boys won their first GHSA tennis championship, beating defending champion Brookstone 3-1. Stratford had won nine GISA tennis championship before moving to the GHSA this year. The Athens Academy girls beat Brookstone 3-1 to win their 10th championship and first since 2010.

Class AA: The Wesleyan girls won their first title since 2001 with a 3-1 over Region 6 rival Lovett. The Greater Atlanta Christian, who finished third in Region 6, knocked off region champion Pace Academy 3-1 to win their first title since 2008.

Class AAA: Blessed Trinity’s girls prevailed 3-2 in a tight match with Westminster and won their seventh consecutive state championship. The Westminster boys defeated Calhoun 3-2 and won their fifth straight title.

Class AAAA: The Woodward Academy girls blanked Buford 3-0 to win its first championship since 2001. In a battle of reigning state champions, the Marist boys beat rival St. Pius 3-0.

“The match was played like what you would expect from two state championship teams,” Marist coach Tommy Marshall said. “It’s been great to see these guys come together into a team.”

Class AAAAA: Both winners took home their first state tennis trophies. The Cambridge girls defeated Starr’s Mill 3-0, while the Lakeside-Evans boys enjoyed a 3-1 win over Starr’s Mill.

 


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