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Deerfield, Southland girls tennis reach GISA AAA Final 4

Photo by Danny Aller

Photo by Danny Aller

MACON -- From the tiny acorn, grew the mighty oak.

That was just about how four members of the Deerfield girls tennis team felt Monday after entering the GISA Individual State Tournament as the Nos. 3 and 4 seeds, but managing to pull off upset after upset to reach next week's Final Four.

The bigger surprise? The terrible day by the DWS boys team, which had finally upstaged the longtime powerhouse DWS girls squad this year to win the region title -- while the Lady Knights' drought of six straight ended -- only to fall flat Monday at the John Drew Tennis Complex.

"How about that?" said Deerfield boys and girls coach Meredith Gruhl when asked to surmise the strange day. "I guess the girls wanted to show the boys they still got it."

DWS sister act, Sarah Kitchen and Hope Kitchen, entered as the No. 3 seed in the No. 1 doubles bracket, but quickly dispensed of No. 2-seeded Pinecrest, 6-2, 6-2, to advance to the quarters. There, the Kitchen girls stunned No. 1 seed Augusta Prep, 6-0, 2-6, 6-1.

Then, the tournament's No. 4 seed at No. 2 doubles, Mary Virginia Hogan and Sara Barge, decided they weren't going to be outdone -- and began a march of their own.

Barge and Hogan came storming out of the gate, dropping the tournament's No. 1 duo from Weber, 6-1, 6-3, then stomping No. 2 seed Trinity Christian, 6-0, in the first set before holding on to win, 7-5, to advance to the Final Four.

"The girls really just played so well and I'm so proud of them," said Gruhl, who will bring the quartet back to Macon on Monday for the semis and finals, where they'll meet a familiar foe: Southland Academy's Sarah Cathryn Parker and Caylee Hammack, who also advanced to the Final Four with wins against Holy Spirit Prep in the opening round and then Westminster in the quarters. "The girls from Southland are tough, but the good news is we're familiar with each other."

As for the boys? Well, things didn't quite turn out as expected.

No. 1 singles player Tyler Mason, No. 2 singles player Reid Wright and both doubles teams -- Kevin Cheshire/Robert Newsome (No. 1) and Matthew Jones/Nasser Rizvi (No. 2) -- all lost in the first round.

"We're not done, though," Gruhl said. "I gave the guys the day off and told them we would come back and regroup and get ready for the team state tournament later this month."

That will be held April 28 in Augusta.