Columbus and Heritage high school athletic teams encountered construction work on Interstate 20 while traveling to Columbia County on Monday, and they hit a road block after arriving at Lakeside High School.
The Lakeside Lady Panthers punished Heritage 5-0 in a Class AAAA state playoff tennis match, while the Lakeside boys were equally inhospitable hosts on the pitch, whipping Columbus 4-1 in state playoff soccer action.
"We didn't know anything about this team, so we were a little nervous," Lakeside tennis player Jennifer Schwartz said. "But we wanted to play confidently, and we did."
The Lady Panthers improved their record to 10-0, and earned a third consecutive berth in the Class AAAA Final Four, which will be staged Saturday at Stone Mountain.
Against Heritage, Kelly Blount notched Lakeside's initial point at No. 2 singles, and No. 3 singles player Megan Gunnels made it 2-0 with a convincing win.
Schwartz and Megan Shingler dominated at No. 1 doubles to secure the clinching third point, but the other two matches continued to their conclusion.
At No. 2 doubles, Ashley Walters and Disha Chhabra cruised past their opponents, which left Lauren Peters as the last Lady Panther left standing.
Kellie Sturma challenged Peters at No. 1 singles, but four simple words pushed Peters to a 6-3, 7-6 (7-3) decision in a second-set tiebreaker.
Peters responded after hearing Lakeside teacher Donnie Burch call out, "Your last home match."
Seniors Peters, Schwartz, Walters and Shingler will now attempt to put the finishing touches on their prep careers this weekend at Stone Mountain.
"This year is the best chance we have of making it to the finals," Schwartz said. "The Atlanta teams are really tough, but as long as we're playing our game, we should be OK."
In Monday's soccer match, Columbus was no match for the Panthers.
Lakeside took an early 1-0 lead when Michael Clark dropped a corner kick across the goal mouth, and Grant Guthrie drove home a left-footed goal.
On the defensive end, Lakeside goalkeeper Lee Vick never had to pick up the ball in the first half. But just before Vick could call out - "Look Ma - No hands!" - the sophomore committed a blunder which screamed, "Look Ma - No brains!"
Vick tried to distribute a pass to a teammate, but his kick went right to a Blue Devils player, who stole the ball and lofted a shot into the open net to tie the match 1-1 with 5:19 to go in the first half.
"I thought I could play the ball, and the guy cut off my angle," Vick explained. "That was kind of stupid on my part."
That was the last highlight of the night for Columbus. Lakeside's Stephen Newman assisted Zach Dillard for a goal with only 29.8 seconds remaining in the first, and Jonathan Wilson and Clark each tallied second-half goals to dispatch the Devils.
"We played pretty well; we just weren't trying hard enough," Vick said. "We need to get our mental game down and come into every game thinking it's the state finals."
For the match, Lakeside outshot Columbus 28-1, and the Panthers also held a huge edge on corner kicks (15-0). The Panthers (14-4-1) now advance to a Friday home match in the Class AAAA state quarterfinals against Dalton.
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