Coach Joe Soley said Walton and Walker are the only Cobb County teams to have won state championships in girls tennis. His Lady Buccaneers, who beat Dalton and Cartersville in the semifinals and finals last week behind strong singles play from Kennedy Craig and Olivia Howe, are now the top-ranked team in Class AAA.
First round state tournament matches in all five classifications have to be completed by Friday.
Allatoona will host Johnson in the opener and could possibly face Carrollton, the team that ended Allatoona’s playoff run in the second round last year. The Lady Buccaneers could potentially host defending state champion Woodward Academy, if it reaches the quarterfinals.
“We have to take this game-by-game and we’re looking at five more games to do what we need to do,” Soley said. “We have something to prove.”
Walton is Allatoona’s only loss of the season, and the Lady Raiders are looking for respect after finishing the regular season ranked third behind Peachtree Ridge and Roswell.
The Lady Raiders are vying for their ninth straight Class AAAAA state title while extending their lengthy winning streak to 157 straight matches. With a lineup of mostly underclassmen after graduating seven starters from a year ago, Walton looks strong after winning Region 5AAAAA tournament.
Peachtree Ridge, which has been Walton’s most serious threat the last couple of years, is on the other side of the bracket. But the Lady Raiders’ streak is threatened on their side of the bracket by potential matchups with Roswell and No. 6-ranked Mill Creek.
“We really came out strong in the region tournament,” Walton coach Christy Page said. “All the lines pulled off good wins and we hope we can keep that up throughout the state tournament.”
Walton’s 5AAAAA rival Lassiter is the region’s No. 4 seed and will open at Roswell in the first round.
Like Walton, the Pope boys will battle for another state title, but their road doesn’t appear to be an easy one. The No. 4-ranked Greyhounds are a young squad that lost five starters from last year’s team.
They open at home against Chamblee but could face Region 7AAAA powers No. 3 Chattahoochee and No. 6 Lambert en route to the semifinals. In preparation of what they’re about to face, they lost close matches to east Cobb rivals Walton and Lassiter in the Buckhead Rotary tournament over the weekend.
“It could have gone either way,” Pope coach Dean Kroeger said. “I told (the players) that this is the caliber of opponents that we’re about to be facing,”
Walton, ranked No. 2 in AAAAA, may have caught a break with only one ranked team (No. 6-ranked Milton) in its quarter of the bracket. The toughest opponents by ranking are on Lassiter’s side of the bracket, and the Trojans will likely face No. 5 Collins Hill in the second round with top-ranked Brookwood to follow in the quarterfinals potentially.
With the Region 4AAAAA teams on the top half of the AAAAA bracket paired with mostly southern Georgia teams, who are traditionally weaker in tennis, there could potentially be some rematches in the state quarterfinals. The North Cobb boys may have an easier road to the semis after beating Harrison last week to claim the 4AAAAA title.
The Mount Paran Christian girls, ranked No. 2, already won its first round match against Excel Christian in the Class A bracket and could face crosstown rival and No. 4-ranked Whitefield Academy in the second round early next week.
In the boys Class A bracket, the No. 2-ranked Whitefield Academy could meet its match at top-ranked Mount Pisgah in the quarterfinals. Walker will have a rematch with Pace Academy in the quarterfinals if the Wolverines get through their first couple of rounds.
The Allatoona boys, who won the 7AAA tournament last week, could run into second round trouble against St. Pius X. The Pope girls, who defended its 5AAAA tournament title, are looking to make it beyond the state quarterfinals this season.