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Norcross runs into Raiders

Photo by Brandon Brigman

Photo by Brandon Brigman

JONESBORO -- The Norcross girls were a surprise story in the Class AAAAA state tennis tournament as Region 7-AAAAA's No. 3 seed, posting 3-1 playoff wins over Etowah, Brookwood and Lassiter en route to the state championship.

Unfortunately for the Blue Devils, they had to contend with a Walton team that hasn't lost a match since 2003.

The senior-laden Raiders humbled Norcross 3-0 in the state finals today at Clayton County International Park to win their eighth straight state title and 147th straight match -- the longest streak of any team in Georgia.

The Blue Devils, who ended the year with a 17-6 record, swept Valdosta in their semifinal match earlier Friday.

"What was tough about Walton is the name itself," Norcross coach Hope Black said. "You have all their kids who are going to Division I. They are strong all the way down (the lineup) and they are a good team. You have to give them that."

In a match that was decided in one hour, 10 minutes, Walton won all its singles matches to clinch it. All three singles losses for Norcross came against Division I signees.

It may not have been the way the Blue Devils wanted to go out, but for a team that hasn't even been to the playoffs until last season, this will be something to build on.

"The beginning of the season, we set our goals up to get past where we did last year, which was the first round of state," Black said. "That was a big win against Etowah. All year, we never gave up.

"We have a motto at Norcross and that's, 'We believe.' The girls never give up and were excited to be here. It's far beyond what everyone thought we would be."

Cameron Williams, who is expected to play at Georgia Southern next year, hung in with Walton's Emily Zabor, an Alabama signee, in the first set before falling 6-3, 6-0 at No. 1 singles.

Nicole Northrup battled UConn-bound Maxie Weinberg in the opening set of her No. 2 singles match before settling for a 6-4, 6-0 decision, and Vooha Vellanki fell 6-2, 6-1 to Stephanie Falcon (UNC-Greensboro) at No. 3 singles for the clinching point.

Both of Norcross' doubles teams were down a set when the match was called.

Those doubles teams earned the Blue Devils two points in the semifinal win against Valdosta. Cameryn Massey and Stacy Lackey won 6-0, 6-1 at No. 1. Lindsay Holmes and Maria Lackey were equally dominant with a 6-1, 6-1 victory at No. 2.

Vellanki's 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 3 singles propelled the Blue Devils' into the finals against Walton. Norcross defeated the No. 3, 4 and 5 teams in the state to get to the championship before falling to the Raider juggernaut.

No other tennis team, boys or girls, in school history has advanced so far in the playoffs and the Blue Devils did it with just three seniors on the roster.