Warrior Tennis Doubles-Down for Region Titles
Friday's region wins escalated OCHS and Coach Dan Gruetter's cumulative region record for the year to 30-0, while assuring the girls and boys top seed from region 8-AAA, plus home court advantage going into next week's opening round of the state playoffs.
FLOWERY BRANCH - Dan Gruetter's Oconee Warrior tennis team weathered a two hour rain delay early Friday, then went on to capture two 8-AAA Region titles, as both the girls and boys teams notched a pair of wins to claim dual region crowns. The region titles are the 27th in the past 29 years for both the girls and boys teams.
The Lady Warriors, 18-3 overall, opened play with a convincing 3-0 win over Lanier. OCHS picked up two of the needed three match points at singles when Katy Kane posted a 6-0, 6-2 win over Meg McGree at number two, while Caroline McElhannon coasted to a win, 6-1, 6-1 over Lindsey Wong at number three. At number two doubles, Ivy Do and Megan Morris sealed it for the Oconee ladies, as they chalked up the winning point 6-3, 6-0 over Victoria Inman and Sodoin Oh.
In the region finals, the Lady Warriors faced a fired-up Gainesville team, that brought plenty of fan support in hopes of generating an upset, prevent a second straight Lady Warrior region title and send the Oconee team out with their only region loss of the year.
However, it was not to be, as the Lady Warriors dominated from the outset, winning the title with a convincing 3-1 decision. Caroline McElhannon got Oconee on the board first with solid play at number three singles, as she took care of business quickly with a 6-0, 6-0 win over Martha McKinnon. At number one singles, Jordan England had little trouble, as she overpowered Brinkley Frankum 6-2, 6-2 to get the Lady Warriors within a point of the title. Megan Morris and Ivy Do then dealt the Red Elephants the final blow, with a close and hard fought 6-4, 7-5 win at number two doubles, giving the Lady Warriors the title.
The Warrior boys relied on help across the entire team in their two matches to claim the 8-AAA Region title for the second time in three years. Friday's two wins improved the Warriors season record to 19-2.
In their first contest versus rival Gainesville, the Warriors got wins at number one and three singles, as well as two doubles to beat Gainesville 3-1 and advance to the region finals.
Will McDonald won 6-3, 6-2 over Connor McMorrow to get the Warriors their first point. At number two doubles, Hunter Pritchard and Dan Madden, won 3-6, 6-0, 6-2, but were forced to dig deep after a first set loss, to make a strong comeback and get the Warriors within a point of the three points they needed to win.
That set the stage for what may be considered the key win of the entire tournament for the Warriors, as Conner Smith hung on to give the Warriors a dramatic key win at number three singles, pulling out an upset win over Jackson Goble 7-6, 6-4. Smith had struggled twice earlier in the season vs Goble, but held firm Friday, and made the third time the charm for he and his fellow Warrior teammates. Smith was mauled by the entire Warrior team after winning match point and putting his team in the finals.
Reaching the region finals, meant the Warriors had to turn around after an emotional win over Gainesville, and find a way to not only get up, but also defeat their other region rival West Hall once again, and do it on the West Hall home courts. Oconee won both regular season matches vs West Hall, but like Gainesville, that only served to charge up the West Hall players, coaches and fans and put them on upset alert to snatch the region crown away from the undefeated Warriors at the final match of the season.
This time, the Warriors reached into their arsenal at number one doubles to get a key upset win, which propelled them to a 3-1 team win along with the region title.
After the Warriors fell behind 0-1, "Slammin" Sam Ondo got them their first point with a stellar overpowering performance at number two singles, as he defeated Conner McFall 6-2, 6-1. That win moved the spotlight to number one doubles, where Zach Miner and Drew Horsley would need to overcome the talented Spartan duo of Min Kim and Brenden Werth, who had success against the Oconee pair earlier in the season. However, Miner and Horsely notched up their performance this time around and pulled out a critical 6-2, 6-2 win, which put the title one match away. The attention shift then moved over to number one singles, where Will McDonald held a comfortable lead over Max Wilson. McDonald finally ended West Hall's hopes with a 6-0, 6-2 win, and was also mauled at mid-court as the Warriors celebrated the region title. However, it was the key win at number one doubles that seemed to tilt the scales Oconee's way.
Friday's region wins escalated OCHS and Coach Dan Gruetter's cumulative region record for the year to 30-0, while assuring the girls and boys top seed from region 8-AAA, plus home court advantage going into next week's opening round of the state playoffs. The girls will host Lafayette, while the boys will go against Cartersville. Both matches are tentatively set for Wednesday afternoon at the OCHS courts.