The Calhoun girls took the momentum they built last week during the Region 6-AAA Tournament and carried it over into the Class AAA State Tournament on Monday as they came away with an impressive first-round win.
The Lady Jackets, who won their 11th straight region title last week, looked like team focused on big goals ahead as they took care of business with a 5-0 victory in the first round over Franklin County. They will now advance to play the winner of Westside (Macon) and Pierce County in the next round.
“The girls were focused and took care of business on the courts,” said Calhoun coach Lynn Davis. “They played well today. Anytime you win 5-0 in the playoffs, you know you earned it.
“We’re playing really well as a whole right now. Overall, I think this team is more focused on the goal of winning a state title more than any other team we’ve had. We’ve still got to work on our footwork and closing on the net, but we’ve got a lot of momentum right now. We hope to continue taking it deep the playoffs.”
Calhoun (17-1) got a quick point at No. 1 singles on Monday to set the tone as junior McCartney Kessler won 6-0, 6-0 in quick fashion. No. 2 singles player and freshman Carly Briggs followed shortly after by wrapping up her match with a 6-0, 6-0 win to put the team up 2-0.
“McCartney and Carly are both really, really good, and they set the tone for our team,” said Davis. “Emma (King) feeds off of them in singles at the other singles spot and our other girls feed off them too. They are experienced, battle-tested players from playing in all the tournaments over their junior career, and they are a huge part of our success.
The No. 1 doubles team of Marlee Nichelson and Jalen Holland clinched the win with the third point a little while after the completion of Briggs’ match. The senior and sophomore pair won 6-0, 6-0.
King followed with a two-set win (6-3, 6-0) to make it 4-0, and the No. 2 doubles team of Sammy Bramlett and Neeley Abernathy completed the 5-0 sweep with a win in a third-set tiebreaker in their match. They won the first set of the match 6-2 before Franklin County’s Kaylie Isom and McKenzie LaCount evened the match with a 6-1 advantage of their own in the second set. Abernathy and Bramlett finished it out, however, by controlling the tiebreaker set.
“Our No. 1 doubles team is playing really well and has really good chemistry,” said Davis. “No. 2 doubles won the first set pretty quickly, but I think they relaxed a little and lost the momentum in the second set. The good thing is they stuck with it, bounced back and won the match in the tiebreaker.”
The Lady Jackets will now wait for their opponent in the second round, which they will host as the No. 1 seed from 6-AAA. They are trying to make it back to the Elite Eight for the third straight season and advance to the Final Four for the first time since 2015, which was the first time they have made it to that point.
“These girls know what they are capable of doing, and they are going to continue to work hard to achieve that,” said Davis. “This is the first step of what we hope will be four more in the playoffs.”