Heritage Generals

The weather felt more like an early-season match than the second round of the state playoffs, but unseasonably cool temperatures did little cool down the Heritage Lady Generals' tennis team on Wednesday.

After receiving a first-round bye when Region 6 only elected to send two teams to the Class AAAA state tournament, Region 7 runner-up Heritage finally began its postseason on Wednesday with the added bonus of playing at home.

Their opponents would be the Lady Dragons of Jefferson, who came in as the No. 4 seed from Region 8, but sporting doses of confidence and momentum following a 3-2 victory over Region 5 champion Hampton in the opening round of the tournament.

But even with one less playoff match under their belts, the Lady Generals looked sharp and sent the visitors back home with a 3-0 loss.

This marks the fourth straight year that the Navy-and-Red have advanced past the first round and, with the win, Heritage will play in the Elite Eight for just the second time in program history.

"For this group to get to go to the Elite Eight is unbelievable and we'll just see what happens (from here)," head coach Jeff Green said. "You never know until you get there, but this group has been really good all year."

Bailey Christol got a point at No. 2 singles with a 6-1, 6-3 victory, while the No. 1 doubles team of Rheagan Simmons and Kortney McKenzie came through with a big 6-4, 6-1 win. A 6-1, 6-2 victory by the No. 2 doubles team of Elli Jost and Lauren Mock would give the Lady Generals the decisive third point to clinch the overall match.

No. 1 singles player Morgan Phillips won her first set 6-2 and was leading 5-4 in the second set when play with halted, while Mia Callahan, Heritage's No. 3 single player, dropped her first set, 6-3, but was leading 2-1 in the third when the match was stopped.

"Morgan and Bailey played No. 2 and No. 3 singles their sophomore year after playing doubles as freshmen and they really played well," Green said of the team's only two seniors. "We only got to play a couple of matches last year (before the COVID shutdown), but they've both been unbelievable this season. They've probably only lost about three matches each in their careers.

"Really, other than those two, no one else had really played (before this year). Mia didn't play last year and she's just a sophomore. Our doubles teams are kind of patchwork, but we've got some good basketball players playing No. 2 doubles. They're really athletic and you can win at No. 2 doubles at this level with some athletes. Then our No. 1 doubles team pulled off a huge win for us today, so I'm excited for all of them."

Heritage's next opponent was unknown as of press time. They will either host Spalding, the No. 3 seed from Region 4, or they will have to travel to Savannah face Region 3 champion Islands in the next round.

The Lady Generals only other trip to the third round came in 2017 when they dropped a heartbreaking 3-2 decision to Central-Carroll.

Scott Herpst is sports editor for the Walker County Messenger in LaFayette, Ga., and Catoosa County News in Ringgold, Ga.

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