Things are likely going to get quite a bit more difficult for the Columbus boys tennis team in the next round. They certainly couldn’t get much easier.
The Blue Devils made quick work of visiting Stephens County in the first round of the Class AAAA playoffs on Monday, sweeping five matches to advance to the second round. Columbus will likely face top-seeded Marist, which played its first round against No. 4 Heritage-Catoosa.
That match has to be played by April 30, though no official date and time has been set.
Coach Betsey Zachry said, though, that no matter who its next opponent is, Columbus just needs to focus on itself.
“They’re going to be strong,” Zachry said of the next opponent. “Right now, a lot of what we’re facing is unknown with the reclassification and all that. There are a lot of question marks. All we need to worry about is what we’re doing.”
What the Blue Devils (16-6, 8-2) were doing Monday was making quick work of Stephens County.
They picked up wins in three matches, clinching a team victory, before the fifth match even began play.
Parker Bray defeated Steven Whitworthy in No. 2 singles (6-0, 6-2) and both doubles teams shut out their opponents (6-0, 6-0). The Blue Devils doubles squads were comprised of Rob Monfort and Ryan Gordon in No. 1 doubles and Arnav Patel and Andrew Bray in No. 2 doubles.
Having already clinched a victory, No. 1 singles player Ellis Bunn finished off Austin Simmons (6-4, 6-4) in a long match marked with some good shots, but also a little frustration. Nathan Lovett finished the day at No. 3 singles with a win over Brett Williams (6-2, 6-2).
After his match, Parker Bray said the Blue Devils were confident in where they were.
“We’re feeling pretty good right now,” he said. “We’ve got four seniors, so we were expecting to do some stuff. We’ve got a lot of talent and experience.”
The team knew going into Monday’s match that a difficult second-round match potentially looms, but they were focused on not overlooking Stephens County, he said.
While he and Zachry both said they didn’t know a lot about what to expect from Stephens County, Monday ended up being an opportunity to tune up their games.
“I was really focused on working on a few things,” Parker Bray said, noting attempts to improve serves and keep his opponent on the move.
They’ll look to continue that improvement going forward as they prepare for the second round. Parker Bray said it was important to realize that no matter who the Blue Devils face, they can’t get too worried about it.
“We have to stay focused,” he said. “We can’t psyche ourselves out. When you think of Marist, you think how they’re a private school and the players probably take a lot of lessons, but we can’t worry about them. We just have to be confident in ourselves.”
Zachry echoed those words, noting the quality of opponents Columbus has already faced thus far this season.
“We’re playing well against good opponents, so the potential for us is there,” she said. “I think there are probably four or five teams in AAAA that can win it all, and I feel like we’re one of them.”
David Mitchell, 706-571-8571; Follow David on Twitter @leprepsports.
Monday at Lakebottom Park
No. 1: Ellis Bunn d. Austin Simmons 6-4, 6-4; No. 2: Parker Bray d. Steven Whitworthy 6-0, 6-2; No. 3: Nathan Lovett d. Brett Williams 6-2, 6-2.
No. 1: Rob Monfort/Ryan Gordon d. Mitch Franklin/Faite Chatham 6-0, 6-0; No. 2: Arnav Patel/Andrew Bray d. Hayden Black/Zachary Caudell 6-0, 6-0.
Next: Columbus, vs. Marist/Heritage-Catoosa