Ultimately, though, St. Pius had a little more in reserve, and Allatoona came up short in its state title bid, settling for a 3-0 loss.
The Lady Buccaneers (23-2) wrapped up the best season in their five-year history with a lineup that included just one senior —doubles player Kristy Lee. It was a team that upset defending champion Woodward Academy in last week’s state quarterfinals, and one whose only prior loss came to Class AAAAA powerhouse Walton.
“Going back to Day 1, we talked about commitment,” Allatoona coach Joe Soley said. “Our goal was to win (Region 7AAA), take it one match at a time in the playoffs and reach the finals. St. Pius was a great team. They’ve been here before, and I wouldn’t take anything away. The girls fought for every point and every match.”
Saturday’s championship match was up for grabs, but Allatoona’s Kennedy Craig and Olivia Howe lost a pair of three-setters at No. 1 and No. 2 singles, clinching St. Pius (13-5) its third state championship.
As the Lady Golden Lions had the win in hand, the Lady Buccaneers’ Caitlin Shannon and Allison Whitley were a game away from closing out their three-set match at No. 1 doubles, while Haley Proctor was leading in the third set at No. 3 singles.
Craig admitted to being fatigued after spending nearly six hours on the court Saturday between the semifinal against Richmond Academy, and then the championship. Her come-from-behind, three-set victory over Richmond Academy’s Kayla Price, which took roughly three hours to complete, was the decisive point of Allatoona’s 3-2 semifinal win.
Having to return to the court an hour later, Craig gave it everything she had in the first two sets against St. Pius’ Blaine Boaz, but the sophomore could never recover from her early third-set deficit and lost 7-5, 4-6, 6-2.
“I was excited to be in the finals, but was too exhausted to be in another three-setter,” Craig said. “We did well this season. We never made it this far, and when we look back on it, we’ll be happy.”
The momentum of Howe’s match against Jennifer Leib at No. 2 singles switched back and fourth during the first two sets before Leib took over in the third. Howe could never establish rhythm in the third and lost 6-4, 5-7, 6-1.
The only lopsided match was at No. 2 doubles, where St. Pius’ Ansley Jones and Grace Mendzef won 6-3, 6-0 over Lee and Melanie Whitley.
St. Pius held the early advantage over Allatoona by winning the first sets in four of the five matches. Proctor was the Lady Buccaneers’ only first-set winner, breaking serve late to win 6-3.
Craig was on-serve against Boaz in the first set before losing it late. Howe fell behind 2-0 in the first set to Leib before winning four straight games and then losing four straight. Shannon and Allison Whitley were prone to unforced errors in their 6-3 first set loss at No. 1 doubles.
Only Lee and Melanie Whitley failed to keep up after dropping their first set.
Craig and Howe scrapped in their second-set wins and managed to win the majority of long points. Shannon and Allison Whitley settled down and began taking over their match midway through the second. Proctor couldn’t maintain her first-set performance in the second, but she got it back early in the third before her match was called.
“I went to each match and told them that this was our overtime,” Soley said. “I thought our girls had the legs and hoped that St. Pius gassed out, but they didn’t.”
The Kennesaw Mountain girls couldn’t match up with Peachtree Ridge in its first trip to the semifinals Saturday, losing a 3-0 decision to the Lady Lions.
“I’m proud of our girls for making it this far,” Kennesaw Mountain coach Connie Bailey said. “I’m hoping we can build from this and become a team expecting to be here. The kids are disappointed, but we did win some games.”
Marilyn Corn fell 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. Heidi Seabaugh and Marissa Nesmith lost 6-2, 6-2 at No. 1 doubles, and Abby Seabaugh and Katie Manroe lost 6-0, 6-3.
Kennesaw Mountain freshman Nicole Croxton was in a lengthy first-set battle against Peachtree Ridge’s Jessica Northcutt when the match was called, and Chika Okonkwo had just started her match at No. 3 singles.
Kennesaw Mountain, the Region 4AAAAA champion, finished the year with a 21-4 record.