Girls tennis roundup: Walton among five to defend state title

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

The Walton girls had their hands full with a spirited North Gwinnett team, but emerged with a 3-1 win to claim the Class 7A championship at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College. It was the 23rd overall championship and third in a row for the Cobb County power.

Walton was one of five returning champions competing at the GHSA girls final. The other four won, too – Marist in Class 6A, Northview in 5A, Pace Academy in 4A and Wesleyan in 3A. Marist moved up from 4A and Wesleyan moved up from Class A Private to keep their streaks alive.

“This was not easy,” Walton coach Anthony Foti said.. “That team was good. We played them in the semis or quarters last year and I didn’t remember how good they were. I’m so proud of the girls.”

Walton got its wins from Hayden Mulberry at No. 1 singles, her sister Reagan Mulberry at No. 3 singles, and the No. 2 doubles team of Catherine Dierker and Alex Alterman. North Gwinnett’s Jenelle Roberts defeated Walton’s Grace Keller at No. 2 singles. Walton’s No. 1 doubles team of Amala Arun and Natalie Kirka did not complete their match.

Mulberry, a two-time AJC Player of the Year, finished her third unbeaten season. She was down 3-1 to North’s Tankia Saravanan but came back to win 6-3, 6-1.

“I knew she was going to be good going into it,” Mulberry said. “I started really slow and then I got back into it and then at the end I was able to finish it off. I felt the pressure with everyone watching but I was able to pull it out.”

Walton loses a heavy senior presence, one that lost one match over three years and won three state champions. It might have been more had the 2020 spring season not been cancelled because of COVID.

“These seniors, their entire career, they lost one match and that was really an exhibition where we were kind of tinkering with the lineup,” Foti said. “I’m very biased, but I think they’re one of the best teams in the country. They’re just unbelievable. They play at such a high level.”

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Class 6A: Marist 3, Alpharetta 0

The War Eagles swept the three singles matches to win their fourth straight state title for coach Jose Gregory. No. 1 Sabritt Dozier, No. 2 Kate Harpring and No. 3 Ashlyn Taylor all came away with wins for Marist.

Neither of Marists doubles teams were able to complete their matches: No. 1 Gabrielle Marshall and Bella Ferrer and No. 2 Claudia Derazi and Lauren Parker.

“My main objective is to try to field a team that tends to be really individualized and for the girls to work as a team,” Gregory said. “That’s something that has really paid off for us since I’ve been coaching. We have a lot of talented players, but it’s really more about building a team chemistry.”

Gregory wasn’t sure what to expect when the school got promoted all the way to Class 6A, but wasn’t surprised at the outcome.

“We knew moving up to 6A would provide a new set of challenges, especially for the young girls, not knowing some of the opponents,” he said. “And that proved to be the case with some of the matches. But we did our due diligence and kept it going and I’m glad we were able to deliver.”

Marist lost one game all year – a 3-2 setback to Class 7A champion.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Class 5A: Northview 3, Chattahoochee 2

Northview won its second straight championship by beating Fulton County neighbor Chattahoochee. The match was decided when Northview freshman Jigisha Singh outlasted Chattahoochee’s Bailey Lina 6-4, 6-3 at No. 2 singles to clinch the match.

It was a rubber match between the two teams, who split their previous meetings.

“We’ve got 11 girls who are all equally talented,” Northview coach Staci Kelly said. “So it’s a dream, but not so much a dream for a coach. But what I was banking on happening is exactly what happened and we had the girl we wanted on the court.”

Other members of the winning Northview team were: Victoria Guagnelli at No. 1, Hasini Bollampalli at No. 3, and the teams of Jayne Siebold and Swathi Murugenandan at No. 1 doubles and Poorvi Iyer and Riya Havanur at No. 2 doubles.

The win gave Northview its third overall championship.

Class 4A: Pace Academy 3, North Hall 0

Pace Academy made quick work of upstart North Hall and won its fourth straight title. The Knights had won the last two championships at 3A.

The Knights featured Caitlyn Pinsker at No. 1 singles, Claire Jiang at No. 2 and Caileigh Pinsker at No. 3.

The No. 1 doubles team was Brooke Brunfield and Nilaya Nag, with the No. 2 team made up of Lawson Monroe and Nayana Nag.

North Hall was appearing in its first finals. The Trojans had knocked off Holy Innocents’ in the semifinal round.

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Credit: Stan Awtrey

Class 3A: Wesleyan 3, Savannah Country Day 0

Wesleyan won its second straight championship with an easy victory over Savannah Country Day.

“It was definitely our goal,” Wesleyan coach Jonathan Sykes said. “We knew we had a good team and we kind of expected it, but you never want to come with too much confidence.”

Wesleyan swept the singles matches behind No. 1 Sophie Gibbs, No. 2 Lauren Tucker and No. 3 Ali Di Lenardo. The No. 2 doubles team of Alex Chase and Chloe Shaia, a pair of freshmen, also won. The No. 1 doubles team was Caroline Scott and Olivia Noel.

Class 2A: Jeff Davis 3, Berrien 2

Played in front of football-type crowd of enthusiastic fans, Jeff Davis emerged with the victory and earned its first state championship.

Jeff Davis started Lexi Girtman, Cori Mims and Demi Rush at singles. The doubles were Noelia Munoz and Aleah Parker at No. 1 and Presley Cox and Ava Coleman at No. 2.

Class A Division I: Darlington 3, Mount Vernon 2

Darlington brought home its first state championship since 2006.

The Tigers started Serena Teluwo, Gebe Phramthong and Chaeli Brogdon at singles. The doubles players were Anaya Desai and Julie Matten at No. 1 and Sophie Pillar and Audrey Abbott at No. 2.

Class A Division II: Christian Heritage 3, Johnson County 0

Christian Heritage emerged to win its first state tennis championship.

Starting for Christian Heritage were Katie Rose Stanfield, Macy Mashburn and Raigh Langston at singles, sisters Riley Geil and Molly Geil at No. 1 doubles and Monica Morales and Reese Bailey at No. 2 doubles.