The Lakeside girls tennis team did Tuesday what they have done all year and high school’s biggest prize is now one match away.
The Lady Panthers rolled to a convincing 3-0 win over Allatoona, advancing to the state finals in the Georgia High School Association Class AAAAA tennis tournament.
“I’m so excited,“ said junior No. 3 singles Anneliese Leahy. “It’s been the first in like many years that a team from Columbia County has been able to go this far.”
The Lady Panthers (21-1) had rolled to the semifinals without allowing an opposing team to score, but the task looked tougher facing an Allatoona squad that entered with a 21-1 mark, having only lost to Class AAAAAA semifinalist Kennesaw Mountain and who were state runners-up a year ago.
Despite the stakes and the pedigree of the opposition, the Lady Panthers weren’t feeling the pressure of the moment.
“We just stayed confident in knowing what we could do,” said lone senior Alexis Ellis, who teamed with Sara Hess in No. 1 doubles. “I think we just stayed calm, cool and just knew that we were going to do the best we can against a good team like this one.”
Leahy was the first player off the court for the Lady Panthers, beating Haley Proctor 6-1, 6-0.
“I wasn’t really nervous, I was more excited than ever because this was the farthest we’d ever gotten,” Leahy said.
Minutes after Leahy finished, Ellis and Hess finished their 6-0, 6-1 victory and No. 2 singles Taylor Richards defeated Allison Whitley 6-1, 6-2 to end the match. When play was halted, No. 1 singles Kayla Hergott was up a set and No. 2 doubles Katie Burton and Brittany McLeod were down a set.
“I’m feeling very good, I’m excited,” said a smiling Lady Panthers head coach Miranda Whitmire.
The Lady Panthers will play the winner of the other semifinal between Cambridge and Starr’s Mill. Starr’s Mill is the only team to have beaten the Panthers, winning 3-2 back on Feb. 9.
“Since we we played Starr’s Mill it would be nice to play, just because we played them we’re familiar with them, but either way we’ll be ready for whichever team we meet,” Whitmire said.
The finalists will play Saturday, May 11, at the Clayton County International Park Tennis Center in Jonesboro, Ga. at 9 a.m.