Brookwood fall to Walton in state tennis finals for second straight year

JONESBORO - It happened too fast.

The Brookwood girls tennis team didn't even get a chance to build any excitement or momentum in its 3-0 loss to defending state champion Walton in the state finals Friday.

The loss gives Walton its second straight state finals win over Brookwood and is the fourth straight state title for the Raiders.

Within 40 minutes of the start of all five matches, Brookwood trailed by a set on each court.

But even as Courtney McLane and Dana Guentert battled back in their second sets at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, the struggles continued on the other courts.

First went the doubles teams of Lindsey Peyton and Jordan Johnston at No. 1 and Stephanie Hedlund and Nicole Hernandez at No. 2. Both teams were slow to adjust to the flat, powerful returns dealt by Walton each losing 6-0, 6-2.

"That was disappointing, but I wasn't disappointed in them," Brookwood head coach Angie McLane said of the quick defeats. "I thought they could adjust quickly to that pace and once they did adjust in the second set it was almost too late.

"We were in a defensive position instead of an offensive position. I was hoping we could hold on a little bit and our singles could come around and give us some team momentum."

That team momentum appeared to be on its way, but the court layout left each court mostly in the dark as to what was happening on the others.

At center court and not within view of any of her teammates, Courtney McLane had taken an early lead in the second set over Walton's No. 1 Cameron Ellis, a Georgia-bound senior and a player McLane had never beaten. And she was doing all this with an ailing back.

"I had that second set," McLane said, half-seriously after the match ended with her up 3-2 in the second set. "Cameron, obviously, is an awesome player and it took a set for me to get used to her style of play, but I was giving her a run for her money in the second set."

While McLane was locked in long volleys with Ellis, Guentert also was gaining some ground at No. 2 singles against Kelly Tidwell. After dropping the first set 6-2 and struggling with her first serves and Tidwell's return game, Guentert had rebounded and felt the matching swinging in her direction.

"It was a rough first set, she has improved a lot," Guentert said. "I think (the match) was looking up for sure, but it would have been close."

Neither Guentert nor McLane got the chance to finish because as they were mounting their comebacks Walton collected its final point at No. 3 singles when Hailey Denson fell 6-2, 6-1, ending the match and giving Brookwood another state runner-up trophy and Walton its 80th consecutive match win.

The loss ended a 22-2 season and a playoff run that included a 3-1 win over Northview to avenge the only other Brookwood loss.

But losing is not something Brookwood is accustomed to - even if it is Walton.

"It hurts to lose to anyone," Courtney McLane said. "They are a great team, though and they deserve to win more than anyone else. I wish we were the state champions right now, but it'll be OK."

And that state championship still may come.

Brookwood returns its entire team next year, giving the Broncos a seasoned group of players, many of which have reached the state finals twice and lost.

"I think you still have to work hard," Angie McLane said. "Nothing is a given and someone could be inspired and saying, 'We want to beat Brookwood,' like we were saying we wanted to beat Walton.

"I still like our odds with the experience of being here."

The junior Guentert fully expects to be back.

"Back kicking butt, yes," she said.