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STATE BOUND: Dawson County tennis teams pass region tourney tests, qualify for state playoffs
Lady Tigers earn region runner-up, boys place third
The DCHS tennis team huddles together and gets ready for their Region 7-3A tournament matches on Tuesday, March 28. The girls team finished as region runner-up while the boys took third place, with both teams advancing to the Class 3A state playoffs. - photo by Rio White

Head coaches Logan Allen and Laura Ledbetter went into the 2023 season not completely sure how all the spots would be filled on the Dawson County varsity boys and girls tennis teams.

While several singles players returned, the doubles lines were in need of student-athletes willing to help the program make consecutive trips to the Class 3A state playoffs.

As the season progressed, it became increasingly clear that the coaches got exactly what they needed, with the girls team eventually compiling a 12-2 regular season record while the boys put together a 10-4 campaign.

(Story and photos continue below)

Heading into the Region 7-3A tournament that began on Tuesday, March 28, the Lady Tigers were the No. 2 seed while the boys took the No. 3 spot. 

The girls began their tournament at the Lumpkin County courts, facing No. 7 seed West Hall.

In a best-of-five matches format, a quick win by Marlee Gaddis was followed by the doubles teams of Avery Beaty/Kaley Geraghty and Wendy Castro/Macy Clark conquering the Spartans to clinch Dawson’s state playoff berth.

Later that day, the Lady Tigers swept Gilmer in the semifinals to earn a place in the region championship game played on Wednesday. Dawson fell to Wesleyan in the title match to take the region runner-up spot. 

The boys began their tournament facing No. 6 seed Gilmer at the UNG courts, where they beat the Bobcats in under an hour to earn their second straight state playoff appearance.

They later traveled over to the Lumpkin courts for a semifinal match against the host team, who beat them 3-2 in a tense battle that went down to the decisive fifth match. 

In the consolation seeding match played on Wednesday, the Tigers beat Pickens 3-1 to repeat as the third-place team out of Region 7. 

Strong efforts were in abundance across the board within the Dawson tennis teams, with both experienced and newer players making contributions.

In the semifinal round, senior Kayleigh Moon dispatched her opponent 6-0, 6-0, continuing a streak of 18 consecutive games won from her first-round match that was cut short after Dawson clinched the team victory. She had lost the opening set of the first-round match but quickly rebounded. 

"Kayleigh is athletic, extremely competitive and mentally tough," head coach Laura Ledbetter said. "She will never give up on a match, even against the toughest opponents. She had beat her opponent before [but] just needed to find the right shot combinations to wear her opponent down and get her out of position."

Gaddis won by the same score in her semifinal round, leaving it for the doubles pair of Castro and MJ Mayr to wrap up that sweep and push the Lady Tigers to the title game.

"The doubles have done well working together with new partners," Ledbetter said. "Communication and trust are vital parts of a strong doubles team. They have formed a trust and relationship with each other."

On the boys side, the Tigers got their semifinal wins through a 6-4, 6-0 singles win by Grant Ledbetter and a three-set thriller won by the doubles team of Ely Hutching and Connor Woody. 

"Grant has made possibly the biggest jump I've seen from one year to the next," head coach Logan Allen said. "He puts in so much time playing in the offseason and it shows. He has become our No. 1 and he is only going to get better."

After Chase Cofield and the doubles team of Ian Costley and Owen Walls lost to the Indians, sophomore Bailey Swafford fell just short to give Lumpkin the overall team win.

Cofield and Swafford would rebound in the third-place matches, with the latter finishing his match in victory while Cofield led his opponent as the Tigers clinched third place. 

"Chase has grown so much over the past three seasons and always brings his best for the region tournament," Allen said. "He just needs to continue to trust his shots and his ability to grind out points and he will be big for us at the state tournament."

The doubles teams of Costley/Tyler Tangel and Hutching/Woody would step up and win their matches to be the clinching victories. 

Dawson County now awaits the results of the Region 8-3A tournament to find out who they will play at the state tournament, which will be held the week of April 17.