The last three seasons have seen Rockmart’s tennis teams consistently battle for both region and state supremacy, but they had yet to have both its boys and girls crowned region champions.
With the help of some extra emphasis and senior leadership, that goal was met on Wednesday as Rockmart took the top honors at the Region 7-AA tournament at the Rome Tennis Center at Berry College.
It is the third year in a row that the Lady Jackets have claimed the region title, with Rockmart’s girls getting a 3-2 win over Armuchee in the championship round. The Jackets, meanwhile, got past the Model Blue Devils, whom they lost to in the region finals the last two seasons.
“I think our seniors have a lot of experience now. They worked hard over the summer and they all got better,” Rockmart boys’ coach Barry Owen said. “This is our third year in a row playing (Model) in the finals, so we were just determined. Not just this season, but from the end of last season to today. That’s how we thought about it.”
The Jackets won the championship round with a 4-1 final tally, getting wins from No. 2 singles player Timothy Malone (6-1, 6-1), No. 3 singles Bennett Vest (6-0, 6-0), as well as the doubles teams of Hunter England and Elijah Malone (6-4, 6-4), and Dillon Mahan and Gavin Tan (6-3, 6-0).
Model’s lone win came at No. 1 singles as Parker Stoned topped Jackson Norris 6-2, 6-0. Norris, Vest, England and both Malone brothers are seniors this season.
“We’re going to miss them next year, but we’re not finished yet,” Owen said. “We hope we can finish strong this year and send them out on a high note.”
Rockmart’s boys’ team remains undefeated this season, sitting at 20-0 as they prepare to start the Class AA state playoffs next week. Both Rockmart teams as well as Armuchee’s girls and Model’s boys will host the first round by finishing in the top two in the region.
Rockmart’s girls were up 2-1 over Armuchee when No. 2 singles player, and the Lady Jackets’ only senior, Mary Ella Owen defeated Hannah Dellis 6-3, 6-1 to clinch the win for Rockmart, which is 19-1 overall this season.
“We’ve had a good run. It’s been real fun,” Rockmart girls’ coach Kent Mathis said. “The girls have worked real hard. The best part is now our middle school team is doing a really good job. The girls are starting to get lessons on their own. And it’s really paying off.”
Mary Ann Earwood picked up Rockmart’s other singles victory at line No. 3 with a 6-3, 6-0 win over Chloe Purdy. Maddie Ann Harp and Eisley Pope got a 6-3, 6-1 win for the Lady Jackets at No. 2 doubles.
“We lost five starters last year, so we had to regroup,” Mathis said, adding that the competition for starting positions was tougher this season and made the team better. “But we needed five more girls to come in and help us regroup, and they did it.”
Armuchee’s Taylor Harris and Blaine Fox won at No. 1 doubles, 6-3, 6-1, while the No. 1 singles match between Armuchee’s Brooke Dellis and Rockmart’s Emma Evans was the last match to finish, but only after a 10-point tiebreaker after each player won a set.
Brooke Dellis pulled out the victory, 6-2, 5-7 (10-7)
“She’s strong. She started strong as a freshman. She finished strong as a senior,” Armuchee coach Mary Stuart Ratledge said of Dellis. “I couldn’t be prouder of my team and the way they played today. It didn’t go our way today, but Rockmart is a good team and we’re just thankful we made it where we are. And I hope we’re both playing here on down the road.”
The road for the GHSA state tennis playoffs end at the Rome Tennis Center, where the state championships in all eight classifications will be held May 4.
Joining in on that chance to play at the local facility again this season is the Coosa boys, who pulled off their second upset of the region tournament by pulling out a 3-2 win over Gordon Central in the third-place match.
After topping Armuchee on Monday in the first day of competition, the Eagles had another three-set win from the No. 2 doubles team of Malachi Wilkins and Keith Gunnells to break a 2-2 tie against the Warriors and secure athree-seed in the playoffs.
Model’s girls lost to Dade County 4-1 in the girls’ third-place match, giving them the No. 4 seed from the region. Both the Coosa boys and the Lady Blue Devils will be on the road to start the state playoffs.