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It’s state time for LaGrange netters

Team looks to build on region title

By Kevin Eckleberry

keckleberry@civitasmedia.com

The LaGrange High boys’ tennis team beat Columbus 4-1 last week to win the Region 1-AAAAA championship. LaGrange hosts Northgate in the opening round of the state tournament today. Contributed photo
http://lagrangenews.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/04/web1_tennis1-2.jpgThe LaGrange High boys’ tennis team beat Columbus 4-1 last week to win the Region 1-AAAAA championship. LaGrange hosts Northgate in the opening round of the state tournament today. Contributed photo

LAGRANGE – The match was on their rackets, and that’s just the way they wanted it.

Last week, LaGrange High’s tennis team found itself locked in a showdown with Columbus for the Region 1-AAAAA championship.

The Grangers were up 2-0 after Pierce Skinner and Tony Choi won their singles matches, so they only needed one more win to clinch the victory and secure the region title.

LaGrange’s number one doubles team of seniors Connor Mahan and Jas Singh had the chance to deliver that decisive victory, and they made it happen.

After winning the first set in a tiebreaker, Mahan and Singh rolled past Kyle Canady and Jacob Sholtis 6-3 in the second set, and LaGrange had an insurmountable 3-1 lead.

For good measure, the number two doubles team of Tiger Lakhwani and Gavin Battle went ahead and won their match as well, giving LaGrange a 4-1 win over its region rival.

It was a special moment for all of the Grangers, including the two seniors who have been such an integral part of the program for years.

“It was one of my biggest accomplishments I’ve had in the four years I’ve been playing,” Singh said. “I’ve been trying to beat this same doubles team for the last four years. We finally got to them this year. It felt good.”

The two teams had met twice previously during the season, and it was Columbus winning both times by a thin 3-2 margin.

LaGrange head coach Kenny Moore changed the lineup a bit with the hope it would produce a different result.

The biggest change was moving Mahan, usually LaGrange’s number one singles player, to doubles to help Singh take on Columbus’ talented team.

Mahan was fine with that move.

“I’d gone to coach earlier in the season, knowing Columbus’ team, and knowing that we had a better chance in doubles,” Mahan said. “I told him I would move to whatever position would help the team best. And that’s what it took this time. I’m glad me and Jas teamed up, and we got ‘em.”

It was a complete performance by the Grangers.

While Mahan and Singh did their job, so did Lakhwani and Battle in doubles, and Skinner and Choi at singles.

At number one singles, LaGrange’s Blade Kendall hung tough with Jacob Yates before falling short.

LaGrange now turns its attention to the state tournament, and it was set to host Northgate today at 8:30 a.m. at McCluskey Tennis Center.

While LaGrange is Region 1-AAAAA’s number one seed, Northgate is the fourth seed from Region 4-AAAAA.

If LaGrange beats Northgate, it would be at home again for a second-round matchup with either Gainesville or Villa Rica.

Mahan believes if LaGrange can continue to perform like it did against Columbus, it could be poised to make a deep run at state.

“We played with confidence against Columbus, and with the tenacity, and that’s what it takes,” Mahan said. “We all really wanted to win that match. We were hungry for it. If we maintain that throughout state, I think we’ll go a long way.”

Singh added that “I believe in our team 100 percent that we can definitely get pretty far at state this year.”

LaGrange High’s girls’ team finished third in the region, and it will visit Region 4-AAAAA runnerup McIntosh on Wednesday.

OF NOTE: For more on LaGrange High’s girls’ team as well as a recap of the boys’ team state-tournament match with Northgate, see Wednesday’s sports section.

Reach Kevin Eckleberry at (706) 884-7311 or on Twitter @lagrangesports