Staff Photo: John Bohn Peachtree Ridge number one seed singles tennis player Abby Owens returns a volley to Walton's Suzanne Zenoni during the Class AAAAAA high school state championships played in Jonesboro on Saturday. Owens defeated Zenoni 2 sets to 1.
JONESBORO -- Needing just that one last nudge to push them over the top in the Class AAAAAA state championship match with Walton, Peachtree Ridge's girls tennis team couldn't quite find it.
Pivotal set wins in the No. 1 doubles and No. 3 singles matches helped the Raiders hold off the Lions 3-2 Saturday at the Clayton County International Park Tennis Center for their ninth title in the state's highest classification in the last 10 years.
"All the girls played great," Peachtree Ridge coach Chrissie Bolt said after Saturday's match. "Like I just told them, I can't ask for a better group of girls. They're awesome tennis players, but more important, they're awesome girls. They've worked so hard all season."
The Lions (17-2) got what they needed in the higher-line singles matches, with Abby Owens outlasting Walton's Suzanne Zenoni in a three-set thriller for a 6-2, 3-6, 6-4 win at No. 1 singles, while Jena Kelly rolled past Melissa Mashburn 6-2, 6-2 at No. 2.
And it looked like Peachtree Ridge's tandem of Sreeja Choppara and Laura Kelly might give the Lions an even further boost by jumping out to a 5-1 lead over Jessie Cramer and Katie Riley in the No. 1 doubles match.
But the Raiders' (18-0) top team rallied to win the next six straight games to snatch the first set 7-5. They got the service break they needed to take the second set 6-3 and earn the first doubles point.
"Our No. 1 doubles team, when they got down, they had to make some changes," Walton coach Christy Page said. "And they got it back together."
Walton's No. 2 team of Sophia Guldberg and Erica Bauer then posted a 6-1, 6-3 win over Riley Guise and Mary Frances Greenwood, and after Owens finally closed out Zenoni, the team match came down to the No. 3 singles contest between Peachtree Ridge's Ali Mills and Walton's Johanna Keeline.
It looked like a forgone conclusion when Keeline swept through the first set 6-0, and then jumped up a break in the second set to take a 3-0 lead.
But Mills gathered herself and stormed back to take the next four games, and after an exchange of service breaks, the Lions' junior had a chance to serve out to even the match at one set apiece.
However, it was Keeline's turn to regain her composure.
"Honestly, I don't think I was nervous," Keeline said. "I think I got just really excited instead of focusing what I had to do at the moment. I don't really get nervous with crowds. I think it was me getting really excited and wanting to get it over with."
And the sophomore did by winning the last three games, the final one in a love-game on serve, to close out her match, and Walton's win.
It was a tough pill to swallow for the Lions, who came up just one match shy of the title for the second straight season after falling by an identical 3-2 score to Roswell a year ago.
"It just comes down to one game or two, and that's how it is," Bolt said. "We knew that it was probably going to come down to singles, and they gave it all they could."