Heritage Generals

Already in the middle of an excellent all-around sports year, another Heritage Lady Generals' team made more history on Wednesday as the tennis team punched its ticket to the state Final Four for the very first time.

Facing the Sharks of Islands High School in Savannah, Heritage collected a 3-0 victory and extended its season for at least one more round.

"I'm really proud of these girls," Coach Jeff Green said. "They've worked so hard and it really showed today.

"(Going to the Final Four for the first time) is so special. We've had some really good teams here and this is really a testament to all of our former players and coaches, along with this (current) group of girls. They are so awesome to coach."

While No. 1 singles player, senior Morgan Phillips, found herself in a very tough match, fellow senior and No. 2 singles player Bailey Christol helped set the tone with a 6-0, 6-0 victory. Elli Jost and Lauren Mock would follow suit with a 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 2 doubles to put the Navy-and-Red a point away from victory.

That winning point came just a short time later as sophomore and first-year tennis player Mia Callahan scored a 6-3, 6-1 victory at No. 3 singles to clinch the match.

Phillips lost her first set, 6-3, and trailed 3-0 in the second set, while Rheagan Simmons and Kortney McKenzie had picked up a 6-1 win in the first set at No. 1 doubles. They trailed 4-3 in the second set when Callahan's win stopped the match.

"Morgan and Bailey have been our anchors all year and, today Morgan was in a very tough match," Green explained. "But Bailey cruised past her opponent and our doubles teams got off to quick starts as well, so we just needed one more and Mia won the clincher. I'm just so proud of her and the girls were pumped."

Heritage will now get set for a shorter trip, but will face its toughest opponent of the year in Region 8 champion North Oconee, who got past Region 2 champion LaGrange, 3-2, in their quarterfinal match.

The Lady Titans won the Class AAAA state championship in 2016, 2017 and 2018 before dropping a 3-2 decision to Marist in the 2019 finals.

The match will be played at North Oconee (Bogart), though the date and time had not yet been determined. The winner of the match will face the winner of the match between Region 1 champion Bainbridge and Region 6 champion Marist for the state title on Saturday, May 8 at the Rome Tennis Center.

Heritage is also the lone girls' team from Region 7 still left in the tournament. Region champion Central-Carroll saw its season come to a close with a 3-0 home loss to Bainbridge in the quarterfinals.

Another team from Region 7, the Northwest Whitfield Bruins, are also going to the Final Four for the first time in their program's history. The Northwest boys also played at Islands and scored a 3-2 win over the Region 3 champions. Like the Lady Generals, the Bruins will also have to get past North Oconee in the next round to make it to the state championship match.

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

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