Jonesboro, Ga. -- The tennis season didn't quite end the way the Columbus girls had planned, but they walked of the courts of the Clayton County International Park Tennis Center with their heads held high.
The Blue Devils were happy to be playing in the state championship game for the first time and were disappointed with a 3-0 loss to Marist, a perennial powerhouse that has now won championships for four of the last five years.
But coach Mikelanna Hill said the Blue Devils will take a lot away from a season that took them to the Class AAAA title game.
"We had some critical points, but the girls played hard and did their best," Hill said.
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Madelyn Bell lost 6-3, 6-0 to Jenna Kane at No. 1 singles and Maddison Abell dropped a 6-0, 6-0 decision to Elizabeth Gould at No. 2 singles. The No. 2 doubles team of Akshaya Shan and Kate Mize fell with a 6-0, 6-1 decision to Leigh Peters and Anna Swensen.
No. 3 singles player Mayu Onoe did not get on the court and the No. 1 doubles team of Abby Courville and Elizabeth Steelman did not finish their match.
"We're happy to have gotten this far," said Shan, one of two seniors on the team. "I know we lost, but it was a good way to end the season."
Hill wasn't sure how good her team would be when the season started. It was loaded with underclassmen; there are two sophomores and three freshmen in the lineup. But once the Blue Devils started winning, they wouldn't be deterred.
"Every match they continued to get better and get better and they continued to prove to themselves that they could compete with these other teams," Hill said. "They got better and better and the season went along."
Shan agreed. "We started winning and we started feeling better about ourselves and we kept winning. We got here. We had a great season."
Columbus (23-3) won four matches to reach the championship. The Blue Devils beat Cedartown 3-0, Grady 3-2, Chamblee 4-1 and West Laurens 3-2. They had the misfortune of playing a Marist program that has now won 23 state tennis championships.
"They've been playing great all year," Hill said. "I knew if they would focus their abilities on tennis, we could get here."