Front-running trio tussle for region title
by Adam Carrington
March 28, 2011 12:00 AM | 1731 views | 0 0 comments | 7 7 recommendations | email to a friend | print
03-03-11 --Walton Tennis 04-- Walton's Emily Zabor returns the ball during her singles match against Woodstock's Nicole Nielly. STAFF/JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN
03-03-11 --Walton Tennis 04-- Walton's Emily Zabor returns the ball during her singles match against Woodstock's Nicole Nielly. STAFF/JON-MICHAEL SULLIVAN
With the Walton girls tennis team, winners of 139 straight matches and seven straight state titles, dominating in Region 5AAAAA, it leaves all the suspense in the much tighter west Cobb Region 4AAAAA.

Harrison, Kennesaw Mountain and Hillgrove finished the regular season standings in a three-way tie for first heading into the region tournament, which begins Thursday with the higher seeds hosting. The semifinals will resume April 12 following spring break with the higher seeds hosting and the championship will be held at Kennesaw Mountain on April 13.

Each team defeated each other with Harrison beating Kennesaw Mountain, Hillgrove beating Harrison and Kennesaw Mountain beating Hillgrove. After the tiebreaker was determined based on total matches won, Kennesaw Mountain secured the No. 1 seed with Harrison taking second and Hillgrove third.

The seeds may be determined between the teams but the 4AAAAA tournament title isn't. The Lady Mustangs will open region play Wednesday against South Cobb, Harrison will host McEachern and Hillgrove will welcome Pebblebrook while No. 4 seed Campbell will take on North Cobb.

"We beat Harrison 4-1 and that was the highlight of our season," Hillgrove coach Judi Schmidt said. "If we play like we did against Harrison, we can win region."

The Hawks have thrived by having four experienced freshmen - Chioma Okonkwo, Jaiden Massi, Emily Deubel and Hannah Creech - in the starting lineup. However, Hillgrove needs a victory Wednesday to qualify for the Class AAAAA state tournament.

For Kennesaw Mountain, consistent play by Sarah Roberts at No. 1 singles and Marisa Nesmith and Tori Hicks at No. 1 doubles have carried the Lady Mustangs. Kennesaw Mountain has won five straight region matches before taking second in the Golden Isles Invitational at Jekyll Island over the weekend.

Harrison opened 4AAAAA by winning its first five matches before falling to Hillgrove. The singles trio of Emma O'Reilly, Alex Haskins and Jaclyn Black have sparked the Lady Hoyas.

"(Harrison and Hillgrove) have really good teams," Kennesaw Mountain coach Chris Jackson said. "Every time we play them, it's either two long sets (in each match) or three sets so it's really close."

In 5AAAAA, Walton rolled through its region opponents unscathed with the exception of Marietta match where the Lady Raiders gave up a match before winning 4-1. They have a bye in the first round and an automatic bid to the state tournament and will await the winner of the the match between fourth-seeded Woodstock and No. 5 Marietta on Tuesday at Woodstock.

The senior-laden Walton squad is playing the same lineup that led the Lady Raiders to their seventh crown last season with future Division I players Emily Zabor, Maxie Weinberg and Stephanie Falcon leading the way. Both doubles are also loaded with tournament players with a deep bench behind them.

"We've been able to rotate and give everyone an opportunity to play for points this season. We have a strong bench, whish has been good," Walton coach Roberta Manheim said. "We're looking forward to making it through region and going to state."

Lassiter, behind No. 1 singles standout Natalie Kieta, battled its way to be the No. 3 seed behind Etowah and will host No. 6 Cherokee on Tuesday for a spot in the semifinals and a berth to the state tournament. Wheeler, which only region victory came against Marietta, will open its region tournament at Etowah.

The winners will play Thursday at the higher seeds for a spot in the championship, and Marietta will host the championship match after spring break April 13.

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