JONESBORO, Ga. — So often this season, Brookstone's Elizabeth McClung had made quick work of her opponent.
The Brookstone senior appeared headed for another quick match as she jumped out to a 4-1 lead against Athens Academy's Emily Dong in her No. 3 singles match.
But Dong rallied to win the opening set 7-5. After winning the second set, McClung found herself in another unfamiliar position in the third set: She trailed 3-0.
McClung didn't panic. Rather she won the next five games en route to a 6-5 decision in the set. That led to her overall win, which proved to be the clincher for the Lady Cougars, who beat Athens Academy 3-0 in the Class A state finals on Friday afternoon at Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro.
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“I just had to pull it through,” McClung said. “I had worked too hard to get to this point. It wasn't good enough to just get to the third set and lose 6-0.”
For McClung, it was the third state championship during her high school career. Brookstone won its ninth girls tennis state championship and the fourth one in five years.
“I really can't even explain it,” Brookstone coach Mary Lynne Cumiskey said. “I told them before we played that for us to win we were going to have to play our best tennis. We did just that.”
For about the first two hours of the two-and-a-half hour match, the outcome was in doubt. Katherine White was able to win in straight sets, beating Margaret Boyette, 6-3, 6-2 at No. 1 singles. Blake Bowden and Mary Bailey Wickham rallied from a first-set deficit to win 7-3 in the tiebreaker. They won 6-4 in the second set at No. 1 doubles.
“Our No. 1 doubles really came through for us,” Cumiskey said. “We haven't had a lot of success in doubles lately. But they are my two little fighters. They never gave up and kept playing.”
Alex Snipes lost the first set before winning the second in No. 2 singles, while Blair Prescott and Virginia Straus won the first set and lost the second. None of them played the third set as Brookstone had secured its second straight state championship.
After quickly falling behind in the third set, McClung began to build momentum. She held serve and then broke Dong, cutting the lead to 3-2. Following a pep talk from Cumiskey, McClung did it again.
“She told me to keep fighting and to play smart,” McClung said. “She told me to be consistent.”
McClung heeded the advice and gave the Brookstone faithful a reason to celebrate.
“When she fell behind 3-0, I was a little worried,” Cumiskey said. “But when she tied it up 3-3, I knew that she was going to win.”
The final result was much different then the regular-season meeting when the Cougars lost 5-0 to Athens Academy in the Buckhead Invitational. The Cougars were without White in the first meeting.
Brookstone cruised to a victory in the semifinals as it knocked off Providence Christian 3-0. The Cougars won all three singles matches before the doubles matches were pulled.
White knocked off Heather Heusel 6-4, 6-2 in No. 1 singles. Snipes won 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles, and McClung won 6-0, 6-3 at No. 3 singles.
For the third straight season, the season came to an end for the Brookstone boys tennis team with a loss in the semifinals. And again, it was to St. Francis.
The match followed almost the exact blueprint as last year's semifinal loss. Brookstone won both doubles matches but couldn't win a singles match in a 3-2 loss to St. Francis.
“It was close,” Brookstone coach Jim East said. “The doubles teams came out and dominated. It's hard for the kids. They really wanted to win and send out Mac (Dillon) with another title.”
But the Cougars' title aspiration ended when No. 1 singles player Kevin Jacobson lost 7-5, 6-4 to Andrew Susserman in the deciding match.
Susserman's twin brother, Justin Susserman, defeated Blake Hudson 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2 singles. Michael Brazil beat Dillon 6-0, 6-0 in No. 3 singles.
Russell Beaty and Brady Bowden won 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles, while Brad Bowden and Shaan Arora won 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 doubles.
Jacobson led 5-4 in the first set before Susserman won the final three games to claim the set. Jacobson and Susserman were tied at 3 in the second set, and then Susserman broke Jacobson en route to the 6-4 win.
“Kevin is as good as Susserman,” East said. “Kevin is going to be a giant. The difference in the match was four or five points. . . . It was not an upset either way.”
|Friday at the Clayton County||International Park||Girls||Class A State Finals||Brookstone 3, Athens Academy 0||Singles|No. 1: Katherine White (B) def. Margaret Boyette, 6-3, 6-2; No. 3: Elizabeth McClung (B) def. Emily Dong, 5-7, 6-3, 6-4.|Doubles|No. 1: Mary Bailey Wickham/Blake Bowden (B) def. Katie Hilimire/Blake Sinyard, 7-6 (7-3), 6-4.|State Semifinals||Brookstone 3, Providence Christian 0||Singles|No. 1: Katherine White (B) def. Heather Heusel, 6-4, 6-2; No. 2: Alex Snipes (B) def. Amanda Jackson, 6-3, 6-3; No. 3: Elizabeth McClung (B) def. Emma Crist, 6-0, 6-3.
|Boys||Semifinals||St. Francis 3, Brookstone 2||Singles|No. 1: Andrew Susserman (S) def. Kevin Jacobson, 7-5, 6-4; No. 2: Justin Susserman (S) def. Blake Hudson, 6-3, 6-3; No. 3: Michael Brazil (S) def. Mac Dillon, 6-0, 6-0.|Doubles|No. 1: Brady Bowden/Russell Beaty (B) def. Tyler Glen/Travis Watkins, 6-1, 6-2; No. 2: Brad Bowden/Shaan Arora (B) def. Elliot Asher/Jordan Hamilton, 6-1, 6-0.