For the first time since 1999, the Gilmer High School Bobcats tennis team finished as region runner-up, securing their first-ever home state tennis match in the process.
The finish came as Gilmer entered the 2016 Region 7-4A tournament, which was held last Wednesday and Thursday at Lakeshore Park in Dalton, as the number two seed. The Bobcats knocked off Southeast Whitfield 3-0 in the opening round, picked up a hard-fought 3-2 win over Lafayette in the semifinals and lost 4-1 in the region championship match to the Cartersville Hurricanes.
“After last year’s (third-place) placement in the region tournament, we are all very excited about capturing the runner-up position this year!” head GHS coach Donna Parks exclaimed after the tournament. “The boys only lost in the region to Cartersville this year and were undefeated in all home matches. Even though the boys do not play in the USTA (United States Tennis Association) or ALTA (Atlanta Lawn Tennis Association) leagues, it’s impressive to witness the sheer talent of each of these boys that got them to where they are today.”
Against the Southeast Whitfield Raiders, Riley Hice picked up a 6-2, 6-1 win. Isaac Hensley won his match 6-0, 6-0, while Dusty Ray garnered a forfeit victory that gave Gilmer the win. In the region tournament, matches were stopped once a team victory was secured to keep the action moving.
“We had won against Southeast Whitfield in the regular season, so we knew we could win if we just stayed focused,” Parks explained. “There was not as much pressure during this match, because the one match was forfeited to us.”
The semifinal match paired the Bobcats with the Lafayette Ramblers. After edging by Lafayette 3-2 in the regular season, Hice picked up a 6-1, 6-0 win and Hensley secured a 6-0, 7-5 victory. Doubles matches saw Cole Edmondson and Chandler Cantrell fall 3-6, 3-6, while Matthew Bruner and Noah Chastain dropped their match 4-6, 0-6.
The deciding third singles match was won by Ray, 3-6, 6-4, 6-1. The match lasted for two hours before Ray clinched the victory.
“All parents, team members and fans were on pins and needles, as we watched Dusty fight back from losing his first set to winning the really even match,” Parks said. “Dusty stayed confident and consistent, as he has throughout the year, to win the match for us.”
The win over Lafayette put Gilmer in the region championship match against Cartersville, who had defeated the Bobcats 4-1 in the regular season. Hensley dropped his match 2-6, 2-6, while Ray lost 0-6, 2-6. Edmondson and Cantrell then took a hard-fought 6-4, 1-6, 6-8 loss to win the match for the Hurricanes. However, the action continued on, as Bruner and Chastain fell 1-6, 2-6, while Hice picked up the lone Bobcats victory against Cartersville after a lengthy, 5-7, 8-6, 10-3 victory.
“Riley set out with a personal goal to beat his opponent from the Hurricanes, which he did,” Parks later pointed out.
Lady Cats season ends in first round of region
The Lady Cats saw their season end abruptly, dropping an opening round match to Lafayette 3-0.
Kali Malham took a 4-6, 2-6 loss in singles action. Hannah Thomas and Chancey Davis lost 0-6, 2-6, while Katie Marick and Katie Sheahan fell 4-6, 4-6 to give the Lady Ramblers the win.
“Going into this match, we knew it would be tough,” Parks said of the Lady Cats contest. “Ally (Davis) was the only one to beat them in the regular season, but a couple of other matches were close so we had high hopes. Knowing it was going to take some effort, the girls played hard and stuck with it until the end when the match was called.”
Parks also commented on the Lady Cats season as a whole. “We had a lot of experience going for us in the girls team. Although the girls (season) didn’t end with a state appearance this year, I was still proud of the dedication and work ethic that they put into each practice and match. I’m looking forward to next year, although we’re losing four seniors and that will bring a new set of challenges for the girls.”
The Lady Cats finish the year with a 8-9 record, while the Bobcats are still active with an 16-3 record thus far.
The Bobcats will host Grady High School tomorrow, for the first round of state. The action gets underway at Gilmer High School at 5 p.m.
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