The St. Pius boys sent coach Chuck Byrd into retirement with a state championship, but it wasn’t easy.
The Golden Lions beat region rival Woodward Academy 3-2 in the Class AAA championship match that wasn’t decided until Austin Causey fought back from a 3-0 deficit in the third set to win 7-5 at No. 2 singles and clinch the title.
“It’s really all about the kids, but it sure does feel good,” said Byrd, who is retiring after 35 years. “It does feel good to finish with a state championship.”
St. Pius won with Parker Jones at No. 3 singles and Sean Kelly and Nat Weikert at No. 2 doubles.
“We did it for him,” Causey said. “He’s a great person and it was our way to give back to coach Byrd for all he’s done for us.”
The Golden Lions also got a win at No. 3 singles, where Parker Jones defeated Brett Schwartz 6-3, 6-1, and at No. 2 doubles, where the team of Sean Kelly and Naat Weikert beat Walker Robitscher and Josh Bircoll 6-3, 6-2.
Woodward prevailed at No. 1 singles, where Andy Martinez beat Michael Malina 6-1, 6-0, and at No. 1 doubles, where Eric Pinckney and Trent Sears beat Parkier Leib and Griffin Kunkler 7-6, 6-1.
“We built this team with heart and hard work,” Causey said. “We fought hard all year. We weren’t so good early in the season but we weren’t going out to be runner-up again this year.”
In other championship matches played at the Clayton County International Park’s Tennis Center:
Class AAAAAA boys: Brookwood repeated as champion by beating Lassiter 3-0 in coach Bill Shield's farewell match. Shields, who has been at the school for nine years, is returning to Florida to coach football in Fort Myers.
The Broncos capped a 26-0 season and won their eighth state championship.
The Broncos got wins from Brandon Mills at No. 1 singles, Will George at No. 2 singles and the No. 1 doubles team of Jeffery Brown and William McWhirt.
“They worked hard as a team and they prepared for every challenge they faced,” Shields said. “I’m really happy for them.”
Class AAAAAA girls: Mighty Walton successfully defending its championship and won the title for the 10th time in 11 years with a 3-1 victory over Alpharetta. The knockout punch was delivered by Suzanne Zenoni at No. 2 singles via a 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 win over Lucy Williams.
“I like to play under pressure,” Zenoni said. “When she got tired it picked me up and made me want to compete even more.”
Walton won at No. 3 singles as Johanna Keeline beat Sabrina Jiang 6-1, 6-2 and at No. 2 Kaitlyn Thornill and Kayleight Jennings beat Emily Gaskins and Grace Gaskins.
Alpharetta’s Ellen Jang-Milsten scored a 3-6, 6-4, 1-6 win over Bella Kuse at No. 1 singles. The No. 1 doubles match between Walton’s Katie Riley and Jessica Cramer and Alpharetta’s Danielle Bauers and Christina Oudin was in the third set and did not finish.
“They really grew as a team,” said Walton coach Christy Page, whose team finished 18-0. “They came together and supported each other and played solid tennis.”
Class AAAAA boys: Northview, with five freshman in the lineup, beat Pope 3-1 to win its fifth championship. It was the third time Northview has beaten Pope this season, which worried coach Tracy Hefner-Ramage.
“I was nervous,” she said. “It’s hard to beat the same team three times and I knew we’d be in for a tough match.”
Northview lost at No. 1 singles, where Pope’s Austin Bates topped Avi Singh 6-0, 6-2. But Northview won the other matches with relative ease. Northview’s Josh Slovin beat Chase Forbes 6-1, 6-0 at No. 3 singles and the Titans swept the doubles matches, with the No. 1 team of Will Claussen and Gabe Caron beating Ryan Heins and Dominic Allan 6-4, 6-2, and the No. 2 team of Jeremy Yuan and Joseph Zang beating Harrison Watkins and Mark Fisher 6-1, 6-2. The No. 2 singles match between Northview’s Matthew Terry and Pope’s Michael Busby did not finish.
Northview’s last title came in 2009, the last in a string of four straight.
Class AAAAA girls: Starr's Mill swept all three singles, starting with No. 1 Rachael Williams, and beat Cambridge 3-1. It was a sweet moment for the Panthers, who had match point last year before losing in the final.
“The girls really wanted this from Day One,” Starr’s Mill coach Ron Mann said. “They were excited to build the tradition.”
Starr’s Mill swept the three singles matches. Rachael Williams beat Aimee Dervishian 6-1, 6-2 at No. 1, Caroline Kelly beat Karah James 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2, and Erin Egoroff, the team’s lone senior, beat Hannah Baird 6-0, 6-1 at No. 3.
Cambridge got victory at No. 1 doubles, where Brenna Feirer and Kiley Dempsey defeated Shannon McKillip and Kailey Inhulsen 6-4, 6-2.
Class AAAA boys: The No. 2 doubles team of Eric Thompson and Chris Bertasi clinch a 3-1 victory for Marist over River Ridge. The duo didn't start playing together until midseason, but their chemistry was unmistakable in Saturday's 6-4, 4-7, 7-5 win over Gabe Mims and Matt Polley.
“We got a lot of energy from the crowd,” Thompsons said. “They really pumped us up.”
Marist won at No. 1 doubles, as Chase Krouskos and Grant Kelly beat Gray Chumley and A.J. Joyner 6-0, 6-0, and at No. 2 singles, where Jefferson Dockter beat Clay McIntyre 6-2, 6-3.
River Ridge was victorious at No. 1 singles behind Ben Van Hout, who beat Kyle Ferrer 6-3, 6-4.
The championship is the first for Marist since 2009.
Class AAAA girls: Marist won its fourth title in five years with a 3-0 win over Columbus, which was making its first appearance in the final.
Marist’s Jenna Kane beat Madelyn Bell 6-3, 6-0 at No. 1 singles and Elizabeth Gould beat Maddison Abell 6-0, 6-0 at No. 2 singles. Marist clinched when the No. 2 doubles team of Leigh Peters and Anna Swensen beat Akshaya Shan and Kate Mize fell with a 6-0, 6-1.
“We played some tough competition this year,” coach Frank Kissel said. “But when we got to region and state, we knew we wouldn’t see anything better than what we’d already seen.”
Class AAA girls: Blessed Trinity beat St. Pius 3-2 thanks to decisive wins by Monica Estep at No. 3 singles and the No. 2 doubles team of Megan Foye and Caroline Macolino. It was the third meeting between the two powers, all of them ending 3-2; Blessed Trinity won in the regular season and St. Pius won in the Region 6-AAA championship.
“That was exactly the kind of match we were expecting,” said Blessed Trinity coach Alan Keel. “St. Pius is tough and it’s been like this every time.”
St. Pius won at No. 1 and No. 2 doubles. Jennifer Leib defeated Nicole Haigwood 6-2, 6-1, and Blaine Bonz defeated Julia Tasanasanta 6-1, 2-6, 6-2.
Blessed Trinity got its first win from the No. 1 doubles team of Kelly Higgins and Jessica Hyland, while beat Caroline Hicks and Sydney Lalomia 6-0, 6-2. The Titans closed it when Estep beat Barrett Batson 6-1, 6-3 and Foye and Macolino beat Justyna Zabinski and Aimee Paxton 3-6, 6-4, 6-3.
It marked the sixth straight championship for Blessed Trinity.
Class AA boys: Westminster blanked Greater Atlanta Christian 3-0 to win its fourth straight title. The Wildcats have won 13 of the last 14 championships.
The Wildcats got a 6-2, 6-0 win from Stephen Solms over Matthew Henderson at No. 1 singles and a 6-3, 6-3 win from Josh Doman over Andrew Chitty at No. 2 singles. Westminster’s No. 2 doubles team of Connor Hutchins and Mac Griffith defeated T.J. Huff and Parker Bryant 6-3, 6-4.
“Our No. 1 (Solms) was the first guy off the court,” coach Wade Boggs said. “He was pretty serious. They were all serious.”
Boggs said he was nervous about the match and had trouble sleeping, but there was really nothing to worry about. It was the 18th state championship for Westminster.
Class AA girls: Westminster's senior-laden team whipped Wesleyan 3-0 in the final to win its second title in three years.
The Wildcats (19-2) got wins from Julie Fowler at No. 1 singles, who beat Sophia Strickland 6-4, 6-2, from C.E. Kerman at No. 2 singles, who beat Lauren Alexander 6-0, 6-1, and from the No. 1 doubles team of Kay Crawford and Becca Stuart, who beat Kaitlin English and Leila Jordan 6-3, 6-1.
“We’ve been in some tough matches for the whole year<” Westminster coach Scoot Dimon. “At the beginning of the year we set a goal to win the state championship. We have five seniors, so this is pretty special.”
Class A Private, boys: Brookstone won its third state championship with a 3-0 win over rival Savannah Country Day. The Cougars, who won their last title in 2005, got wins at No. 2 singles from Baran Baris, the No. 1 doubles team of Trey Thorne and Hudson Terrell and the No. 2 doubles team of Hayden Spicer and Sahil Arora.
Baris beat Greyson Finlay 6-0, 6-3. Thorne and Terrell defeated Riski Patel and Nivan Lakshman 6-3, 6-1, and Spicer and Arora downed Gabe Adler and Sam Chappell 7-5, 6-2.
“It’s a really humbling experience to win this,” said Baris, who will enter medical school at Georgia in the fall. “This shows we know how to compete, we know how to show solidarity and unity. We have the competitors.”
It was the second time Brookstone has beaten Savannah Country Day this year. The Cougars beat the Hornets in the area championship game.
“They were just a little bit better than us today,” said Savannah Country Day coach Lamar Kirkley.
Class A Private, girls: Whitefield Academy defeated Providence Christian 3-1 to win its first state championship.
The Wolfpack got a win at No. 2 singles from Cari Anne Lemasters, who defeated Rachel Hicks 6-1, 7-6. The No. 1 doubles team of Meghan Schwarzkopf and Caroline Holliday defeated Mary Ellyn Brannon and Carly Dubay 7-6, 7-5, and the No. 2 team of Megan Smith and Amanda Brasileiro beat Maddie Schoone and Erin Fisher 6-4, 6-4.
Providence got its win at No. 1 singles, as Evangeline Crist beat Rachel Hicks 6-1, 6-1.
“We definitely didn’t expect to be here,” said Whitefield coach Rick Allen. “But this team has so much heart and so many intangibles. They improved so much this year.”
Along with the state championship trophy, their first, the girls also get an added bonus. They’ll get to shave Allen’s head as a reward for winning it all.
Class A Public, boys: Marion County swept all three singles matches and beat Trion 3-2 to defend its championship. No. 1 singles player Gray Wells led the Eagles with a 6-0, 6-0 victory over Alec Jerauld. Daniel Peacock beat Isaac Thomas 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles and Bense Medders downed Zachary Mildren 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3.
Trion won both doubles matches. Casey Tudor and Payton Payne defeated Kendrick Baker and Joe Pollock 6-4, 7-5 at No. 1, and Landon Barrett and Kaleb Stoner beat Joseph Long and Skylar McAllister 6-3, 6-3 at No. 2.
“We’re definitely very happy,” Marion co-coach Jill Peacock said. “This year we were able to fill all our lines and have alternates, which we weren’t able to do last year.”
Class A Public, girls: Irwin County won its first team tennis championship with a 3-2 victory over Gordon Lee. The match was decided when Alex Rhodes won at No. 3 singles, beating Katherine Chambers 6-2, 7-5.
Irwin also got a victory at No. 1 doubles, where Jordan Jankowiecz and Jadyn Jankoviecz beat Sara Holcomb and Bree Sallee 6-0, 6-3, at No. 2 doubles, where Kaley Vaughn and Maggie Matthews beat Emily Anmour and Jane Reddingius 2-6, 6-3, 6-3.
Gordon Lee won the first two singles matches: Madison Hilley at No. 1 and Tori McElhaney at No. 2.
“This means everything,” coach Luke Roberts said. “The girls got here last year and came up short, but they got back and did their job.”
Irwin avenged its final loss to Bactonton Charter in the semifinals.
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