Two local girls tennis teams played in the Georgia High School Association state semifinals this week, and one advanced to the championship round.
In the Class A private-school bracket, the Brookstone Cougars prevailed 3-2 Tuesday at Mount Paran Christian in Kennesaw. In Class AAAA, the Columbus Blue Devils lost 3-0 Monday to Marist at Lakebottom.
Winning their matches Tuesday for Brookstone were: sophomore Mattie Albright, 6-0, 6-1, at No. 3 singles; senior Lillie Patton and junior Lillie Norred, 6-7 (10-8), 6-1, 6-1, at No. 1 doubles; and junior Mary Stewart Mullin and sophomore Maria Eckstein, 6-0, 6-0, at No. 2 doubles.
The Cougars will play Walker in the Class A private-school final at 9:30 a.m. Saturday in the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. It’s a rematch from last year, when Walker nipped Brookstone 3-2 for the title.
“It was a really tight one last year, so we’re excited about playing them again,” said Brookstone coach Mary Lynne Cumiskey, who has led the Cougars to 12 state championships in 39 seasons, including 2016 and 2017 before losing in the final last year. “But hopefully we can be on the winning side.”
All seven of Brookstone’s starters returned from the team that was oh-so close to the championship. Cumiskey gave them extra incentive this season: She enlarged a photo of Walker holding the first-place trophy, made a poster — emblazoned with the question, “What’s wrong with this picture?” — and hung it in the team’s locker room.
“We were so devastated after our loss last year,” Cumiskey said. “Tears were everywhere because we all felt like we could win. So I just wanted to make them remember.”
Patton confirmed the coach’s plan worked.
“We’re ready now and more motivated than ever,” she said. “This is our seniors’ last year, and everyone wants to do it. We’re not walking off the court until we win. It’s a matter of fighting not just for yourself but for your teammates.”
Cumiskey praised Patton and Norred for bouncing back after losing their first-set tiebreaker.
“I think they just settled down a little bit and starting playing smart tennis,” the coach said.
Patton added, “It was just relief. We never felt comfortable that whole match.”
The depth of Brookstone’s team was the key to beating Mount Paran after the Cougars lost the No. 1 and No. 2 singles matches, Cumiskey said.
“It’s incredible to have the No. 2 doubles team that we do,” she said. “They haven’t lost a match all year. They’re strong players. … They hit the ball hard from the baseline, and they’re great volleyers.”
As for Albright, Cumiskey said, “She just gets every ball back and fights for every point.”
Marist won at No. 2 singles and both doubles matches to clinch the 3-0 victory before the other two singles matches finished.
“I think they were just a little bit better than we were,” said Columbus coach MikelAnna Hill, who has led the Blue Devils to one state championship (2016) in eight seasons. “They were a very solid team. They hit their shots. They were aggressive, and the momentum very much swung their way when it was the big points.”
At No. 1 singles, senior Mary Weston Courville lost the first set in a tiebreaker but was leading the second set 3-1. At No. 3 singles, senior Joy Mobley was ahead 4-0 in the first set.
Hill noted both doubles teams, despite being swept in two sets, were just a few key points away from pushing their matches into a third set. The No. 1 doubles team of junior Olivia Philips and senior Kindra Woodman was tied 4-4 in the second set, and the No. 2 doubles team of senior Lexi Grier and sophomore Kelsey Human was tied 4-4 in the first set.
“We had our chances,” Hill said.
After losing in last year’s championship round, the Blue Devils (21-3) were “devastated” to not reach this year’s final for another shot at a state title, Hill said.
“But, at the same time, they did everything they could,” she said. “They left everything on the court. They were just upset at the outcome.”
Although five of the team’s seven starters are seniors, Hill said, “We have some good people coming up. That will give some of our underclassmen a chance to step up next year.”