The GHSA tennis season moves into the state semifinal stage this week, and a pair of local schools have a chance to advance to Saturday's state championships.
The Columbus High girls will face West Laurens in the Class AAAA semifinals today at 4 p.m. at Lakebottom. The Brookstone boys will play at Pace Academy at 2:30 p.m. Wednesday in the Class A private-school semifinals.
The Lady Blue Devils are back in the semifinals for the first time since 2007. That '07 trip was the last of four straight Columbus made to the final four. It lost all four years.
This is the first time Columbus has made it past the second round since 2010.
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"We have a really strong group of underclassmen this year that have continued to improve as the season has progressed," Columbus coach MikilAnna Hill wrote in an email. "They have matured in their attitudes and consistency on the court, which has helped us win some critical matches.
"Our seniors have become leaders on and off the court and have done a great job of creating a team atmosphere that is makes everyone want to play their best. In addiiton, the girls want to win. We started the season by saying we wanted to make a run for the state title and that has been their goal ever since."
Columbus won Region 5-AAAA, then has beaten Cedartown 3-0, Grady 3-2 and Chamblee 4-1 in the state tournament.
The Lady Blue Devils are led by Madelyn Boren, Maddison Abell and Mayu Onoe at singles and Abby Courville, Elizabeth Steelmon, Akshaya Shan and Kate Mize at doubles.
"We knew a No. 1 seed for the state tournament would help during tournament play, so they girls made it their mission to finish No. 1 in the region and win the region tournament. They succeeded," said Hill, who is in her second season as head coach.
The Columbus girls are trying to duplicate the boys' feat from last year when they won a state championship. Hill said that has inspired her team this season.
"We were so proud of the boys last year and enjoyed being able to celebrate with them," Hill said. "Their win made a state championship seem like a reachable goal."
Meanwhile, the Brookstone boys are back in familiar territory. The Cougars missed reaching the final four last year, and that ended a streak of nine straight trips.
In those nine trips, the Cougars went 3-6, beating Galloway in 2004, St. Francis in '05 and Athens Academy in '12.
Brookstone went on to win the state championship in '05, beating Athens Academy. That was Brookstone's second state title. The first came in 1987. The Cougars lost to Pace Academy 3-1 in the '11 semifinals.
So far this season, Brookstone has blanked ELCA 4-0 in the first round and Hebron Christian 3-0 in the quarterfinals.
The Cougars are led by Kazuki Onoe, Baran Baris and Jonathan Dreelin at singles and Trey Thorne, Hudson Terrell, Jack Pease and Charles Pease at doubles.