Last season the Rockmart boys’ tennis team watched the Class AA tennis state championship between Bleckley County and Benedictine, and a determination came over the boys.
After losing to Benedictine in the Final Four, the Jackets felt they could compete in the championship, and began to put in the work needed to make that a reality.
This Saturday, Rockmart will realize that goal when the Jackets face Early County at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College in the GHSA Class AA state championships.
“We’re extremely excited to be playing in Rome for the finals,” Rockmart head boys coach Barry Owen said. “Last year, they saw it was possible for us to make it if we worked hard to get to that next level. They’ve worked hard from the end of last year to now and it’s paying off. We’re super excited to be representing Rockmart in the finals.”
Rockmart’s win against Thomasville on Monday in the Final Four was the closest match the team has had during the playoffs. The top-seeded Jackets came away with a 3-2 win on the road against the No. 1 seed out of Region 1. The Jackets shut out their opponents in the opening two rounds and topped Dodge County 3-1 in the Elite Eight.
“We had a really tough match,” Owen said. “They just never quit fighting and they came out on top.”
After losing No. 1 and No. 2 singles, Bennett Vest kept the team alive with a 6-3, 4-6, 6-3 win at No. 3 singles. The No. 2 doubles team of Dillon Mahan and Gavin Tan won 6-0, 6-0, and Hunter England and Elijah Malone rallied after dropping their first set to win 2-6, 6-4, 6-4.
Rockmart has some experience against Early County defeating the team 3-2 in the Elite Eight last season.
“It’s going to be a close match,” Owen said. “We have our work cut out for us, but we’ve improved since last year from top to bottom. We’re confident and we’ll take that confidence in and play well.”
Rockmart’s girls saw their season come to an end in the Final Four with a 3-1 loss to Berrien, which was only the Lady Jackets’ second loss of the season.
Mary Ella Owen won the Lady Jackets’ lone match at No. 2 singles 6-2, 6-4. Emma Evans was winning at No. 1 singles 2-6, 6-1, 2-1 before Berrien won matches for the victory.
“My girls had a great year,” Rockmart girls’ coach Kent Mathis said. “We lost five starters last season so we had to regroup. The girls fought hard, we just didn’t have enough gas in the tank to win.”
All classifications will play Saturday in the finals at the Tennis Center. The girls’ championships will get under way at 9:30 a.m., and the boys will begin play at 1:30 p.m.
A total of 40 courts will be used allowing all eight girls’ matches to be put on at the same time in the morning and all eight boys’ finals going on simultaneously in the afternoon. Tickets will cost $5, and parking is free.