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Tennis teams earn State Tournament spots
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Zach Friday prepares to hit a backhand shot against his West Hall opponent in his first round match. - photo by Rio White

After putting in two days of hard work at the Region 7-AAA Tournament this week, the Dawson County boys and girls tennis teams earned places at the GHSA State Tournament.

Both teams entered the region tournament as the No. 4 seed in Region 7, playing their first-round matches on Tuesday, March 30.

The girls team began their Tuesday matches at 9 a.m. against White County at Lumpkin County while the boys began at 10 a.m. against West Hall at Yahoola Creek Park. 

Dawson County got out to a strong start, with the girls team winning all five matches against White County to advance to the semifinals later that day against North Hall.

Across town, the boys team would win four of their five matches to set up a meeting with Cherokee Bluff in the semifinals.

While both teams would lose in the semifinals, they still had a chance to play on Wednesday in the third-place matches back at the Lumpkin County courts.

On Wednesday morning, both Tigers teams faced Lumpkin County for a chance to be a No. 3 seed at the state tournament.

The girls team began the long day of competition for Dawson County with tight matches that showed both teams’ desire to win.

Junior Kayleigh Moon found herself down 3-5 in the first set before storming back to win 7-5. In that match, Moon used her strong finishing shots and adjusted her defensive positioning to induce unforced errors from her opponent.

Following another tight set, Moon would prevail 7-5, 6-4.

After Dawson County’s first doubles team lost their match, senior Blake Smith warded off her opponent 6-4, 6-3 to give the Lady Tigers two wins on the day.

The two remaining matches would be close as well, with the doubles pairing of Wendy Castro and Amber Horton dropping the first set before forcing a second-set tiebreaker. The pair would lose the tiebreaker 7-3 and fall 4-6, 6-7.

Sophomore Marlee Gaddis would play the most demanding match of the day, facing her opponent for well over three hours and exceeding the length of the boys matches, which started an hour after the girls. 

In a back-and-forth affair, Gaddis narrowly dropped the first set before winning the second. Both players put everything they had in the match, with Gaddis ultimately falling short 5-7, 6-4, 5-7.

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Marlee Gaddis hits a shot during her three-hour match against her Lumpkin County opponent. - photo by Rio White

“Marlee played an incredible match, probably her most challenging yet,” girls team head coach Laura Ledbetter said. “She pushed through and persevered for over three hours. [She] does an incredible job staying calm and focused on each point.”

The boys team faced challenging matches as well, with senior Zach Friday playing a tight first set before eventually wearing his opponent down to win 6-4, 6-1. While his consistency at the baseline is his strongest attribute, his willingness to go to the net helped him this time around.

Meanwhile, the doubles pairing of sophomores Grant Ledbetter and Connor Woody also won 6-4, 6-1.

In the tightest match of the day, sophomore Chase Cofield faced and won a first-set tiebreaker and won a close second set to win 7-6, 7-5 and clinch the No.3 seed for the boys team.

“Chase stepped up big with a win today,” boys head coach Logan Allen said. “He won the clinching match to make the state tournament last year and today he won the match to clinch the No. 3 seed. Today was a great performance but I really feel like he played very good both days.”

With that win, the other two matches were called off but were also close at the time.

The doubles pairing of seniors Connor Scroggins and Ben Swafford lost their first set and were down 1-5 in the second set before coming all the way back to win 7-5.

Senior Lane Perry had lost his first set but was up 4-3 in the second when his match was called off.

With those results, the girls team is the No. 4 seed from Region 7 while the boys team is the No. 3 seed. The first round of the State Tournament will be during the week of Monday, April 18.

The girls team will face the winner of Region 5 while the boys will face that region’s runner-up. It has not yet been determined which teams those are.