Walton beats Brookwood to win third straight state girls tennis title

STONE MOUNTAIN - One step farther.

The Brookwood girls tennis team made it all the way to the Class AAAAA finals on Friday before falling to Walton 3-1 on Friday. It was Walton's third straight title.

"My hat's off to Walton. They were the better team today, but now we have something to shoot for," head coach Angie McLane said. "The challenge next year will be trying to improve on this with Walton bringing almost everyone back, too."

The Broncos - who start one senior, four sophomores and two freshmen - advanced one step farther into the playoffs as they fell last season to Walton in the state semifinals.

"We were just thrilled to make it all the way to the finals," senior Paige Ivey said. "We've all worked so hard this year, us especially (at No. 1 doubles) since my partner last year didn't even try out for the team this year."

Ivey and sophomore Lindsay Peyton earned the only win of the day for the Broncos, topping the Raiders' team of Lauren Holton and Kelly Tidwell in straight sets 7-6 (5), 6-4.

"I didn't really come in expecting to get the win," Ivey said. "We just kept telling one another not to get upset if they start making lots of great shots because they are just great players.

"We just never let anything bother us and started making shots of our own."

The Broncos' pair was trailing in the first set 4-1 when they started their comeback, breaking the Raiders' serve and then holding their own to get to within 4-3.

"They do that so often I don't worry so much anymore," McLane said.

Ivey and Peyton rallied back as the match was on serve, finally breaking the Raiders to tie it at six and force the tiebreaker, which the Brookwood pair won 7-5.

The second set was nearly a reverse scenario as Holton and Tidwell rallied to 4-3 from a 4-1 deficit, but the Bronco duo was able to put the match away for the win.

"All of the girls did above and beyond what I asked of them," McLane said. "They played with no fear all through the match."

Sophomore Courtney McLane split the two sets she played, but that match wasn't completed as the Raiders earned their clinching point with the No. 3 singles win.

McLane persevered through two rackets with broken strings and a bout of asthma to earn her split.

"I went over and told her that the No. 1 doubles won so we were still in it, and she just told me that she wasn't going to lose that match," Angie McLane said.

"Even though she was having trouble breathing, I think she stepped it up a bit at that point."

Walton got the first two wins of the match. No. 1 singles player Cameron Ellis topped Dana Guentert while the No. 2 doubles team of Laura Haunes and Elizabeth Killian beat the freshman pair of Nicole Hernandez and Katie Williams. Walton clinched it at No. 3 singles with Ashley Lawrence defeating Stephanie Hedlund.

Brookwood's second-year head coach was impressed with the effort of her less experienced players in the match.

"They got a taste of what its like in the finals, and hopefully, it will make them work even harder to get back here next year," McLane said. "They didn't have the experience to get the win, but I didn't see any nerves from them at all."

Hedlund lost in straight sets but dragged the match out one hour and 45 minutes against the more experienced Walton player.

"After the match I just went over and gave Stephanie a big hug and told her how proud of her I was," McLane said. "We asked her to go away from the way she normally plays and make (Lawrence) hit lots of shots and she exceeded our expectations."

Now the team focuses on next year as it loses only Ivey of the starting players, with all of the singles players returning for their junior season as well as half of the No. 1 doubles team.

"We will just have another year to get better, and hopefully we'll all get better together," Peyton said.

The finals match was the team's second of the day, as it advanced to face Walton with a 4-0 semifinal win against Starr's Mill.

Getting wins for the Broncos in that match were Guentert, McLane, Hedlund and Ivey and Peyton at No. 1 doubles.