Baconton Charter No. 1 singles star Cody Carden returns a shot during his match in the Sweet 16 round of the state tournament Wednesday at the Mitchell County Tennis Center. (firstname.lastname@example.org)
CAMILLA — Abbey Anglin had one thought when she found out her Baconton Charter tennis team would have to play Savannah Christian in Wednesday’s second round of the state tournament.
“I was like, ‘Oh my gosh. No!’ ” said Anglin, the Lady Blazers’ No. 1 singles player.
For the second straight year the Lady Blazers were ousted from the state playoffs by Savannah Christian, while another private school from Savannah — Calvary Day — swept the Baconton Charter boys at the Mitchell County Tennis Center.
Both region champion Baconton Charter teams ended their seasons with 12-4 records and failed to make it past the Sweet 16 of the Class A tournament as both teams had their postseason runs thwarted by private schools for the second year in a row.
“Those are some great tennis players,” Baconton Charter boys coach Sam Cornwell said about Calvary Day, which cruised to a 3-0 win. “It’s a totally different level of tennis than we play all year, and it’s tough to shift gears. All year we play athletes who aren’t good tennis players, and then have to turn around and step our game up two or three notches.”
Running into private schools has been a show-stopper for the Baconton teams, which have consistently been among the top Class A public schools in the state.
But here’s the good news: They never have to see them again.
Next year ushers in new GHSA rules which will separate the public schools in Class A from the private schools during state tournament time, and both Baconton schools were talking about next season as soon as they stepped off the court.
“We are going to go far next year,” said Anglin, whose Lady Blazers lost to Savannah Christian, 3-1. “We are going to be practicing all season long.”
The Baconton boys can’t wait either.
“I’m really excited about next year,” said Cody Carden, the Blazers’ No. 1 singles player. “We have never had a state champion varsity team, and to be the No. 1 player for that would be pretty special.”
The girls won the Region 1-A title for the second year in a row, rolled past Turner County in the state playoff opener and stayed right with Savannah Christian. Baconton’s Clara Oliver didn’t win a game in the No. 3 singles match, but Sierra Davis won her No. 2 singles match, 6-1, 6-3, to even the team score early.
“Cierra stuck it out and really motivated the team,” Baconton girls coach Julia McKenzie said. “She got out there and got the job done then came out and cheered her team on.”
She had plenty to cheer about during the final three matches, which were all neck-and-neck.
Anglin ended up losing to Savannah Chrsitian’s Lauren Waymire, 6-2, 6-4, and Baconton’s No. 2 doubles team of Adrene Miley and Marcey Bullington lost, 6-2, 7-5. Jaycee Santos and Hannah Hays split their first two sets at No. 1 doubles but didn’t play out the third set because Savannah Christian had already clinched.
McKenzie had an interesting observation about the difference between her team and Savannah after the match.
“When we talked to their coach last year, I asked him how many days a week they practiced,” McKenzie said. “He said, ‘I don’t practice. I just schedule matches. They each have their own pro.’
“How do I compete with that?”
Calvary Day had control of the boys match from the very beginning. Samuel Cornwell lost at No. 2 singles (6-4, 6-0), Sanjay Patel lost at No. 3 singles (6-1, 6-0) and Lucas Haley and Clint Godwin lost at No. 1 doubles (6-1, 6-2), while Carden and the No. 2 doubles team of Brock Pinson and Jackson Bankston didn’t get to finish their matches.
The Blazers, who won the Region 1-A title for a seventh straight year, were the top-ranked public school all season and were the last remaining public school in last year’s state tournament. And like the girls, the Blazers won’t lose anybody to graduation.
A full slate of returners and the absence of private schools has Baconton making big plans for next season.
“The split (by the GHSA) is really going to make a difference for us,” Cornwell said. “We are consistently the last or second-to-last public school left in the (state tournament). I look for us to be there (in the state championship) next year.”