Granger Invitational back for 26th year

Published 12:00 am Friday, March 10, 2017

By Kevin Eckleberry

LAGRANGE – It’s tournament time.

The 26th edition of the Granger Invitational will get under way today, with tennis teams from across the state competing for top honors in the two-day event.

Callaway, LaGrange and Troup will each have teams competing.

The tournament is hosted by LaGrange High, and it’s a primary fund-raiser for the tennis program.

“It funds our program,” LaGrange coach Kenny Moore said. “It’s sort of a point of pride that we’re able to do some special things with our program without taking any funds from the school system at all. We’re blessed to get it done ourselves. This tournament is a huge fund-raiser.”

The teams will be divided into five different divisions on the girls’ and boys’ sides of the bracket.

The LaGrange boys’ team is in Division 2, while the LaGrange girls’ team is in Division 3.

Callaway’s girls’ and boys’ teams, along with the Troup boys’ team, will be in Division 5.

LaGrange’s teams are both in the midst of strong seasons.

The Grangers are 7-1, and they finished third in a tournament at Jekyll Island, while the Lady Grangers are 5-3.

The Grangers are a veteran, senior-dominated team.

They came into the season with high expectations after winning a region championship last season, and they haven’t disappointed.

LaGrange’s lone loss came in the Jekyll Island tournament when it dropped a close one to Glynn Academy, and it followed that up with a 4-1 win over long-time rival Columbus.

“The teams that go down to Jekyll are the best in the state, and to be able to have fun and be competitive with them meant a lot,” said senior Tiger Lakhwani, a doubles player for the Grangers.

The Grangers will be one of eight teams in Division 2.

The other teams are Columbus, Coffee County, Eagle’s Landing, Harrison, West Laurens, Wheeler and Union Grove.

LaGrange will take on West Laurens today at 1 p.m. in its tournament opener at McCluskey Tennis Center.

“We definitely have a good shot this year, probably one of the best we’ve had in recent years,” Lakhwani said.

LaGrange tuned up for the tournament by beating Northgate 5-0 on Monday.

Lakhwani and Pierce Skinner won at number one doubles, and Gavin Battle and Will Hunnicutt prevailed at number two doubles.

Blade Kendall got the win at number one singles, Jackson Kuerzi won at number two singles, and Tony Choi got the win at number three singles.

Beyond the possibility of winning this weekend’s tournament, the Grangers have high expectations for the remainder of the season.

“Last year, winning the region championship was big,” Lakhwani said. “And having this group of seniors we have now, we’re going to give it our all. It’s our last run.”

LaGrange’s girls’ team will be in Division 3 along with Greenbrier, Central-Carroll, North Cobb, Eagle’s Landing, Lumpkin County, West Laurens and Brookwood’s second team.

LaGrange will open with a match against Lumpkin County today at 2 p.m. at McCluskey Tennis Center.

Abbi Lynn Lanier will be in her usual spot at number one singles for LaGrange, and that’s a role she embraces.

“I do enjoy it,” she said. “I think that’s the most fun position on the team. You’ll always have the biggest challenge. I’m really excited I get to do that.”

Against Northgate, Lanier and Kaylee Key fell short at numbers one and two singles, respectively.

LaGrange’s lone win in the 4-1 loss came at number three singles, with Jina Shin winning in a tiebreaker.

Lizzie Wilkerson and Jamie Livingston played at number one doubles, and Kelsey Anne Cadenhead and Elise Lee were the number two doubles team.

There are no seniors on the LaGrange girls’ team, so the future is bright for the program.

“As the year goes along, we’re just going to get better,” said Wilkerson, who has been a fixture in doubles this season. “And we have even more people coming up. The eighth-graders that are on the way, that’s exciting.”

Not that anyone is looking ahead to next year.

“We’re stronger this year, and we think we’re just going to keep getting better,” Wilkerson said.

In Division 5 on the girls’ side, Callaway and Troup will be joined by Berkmar, Heard County, North Gwinnett, Central Gwinnett, North Cobb, and Dunwoody.

Callaway will play North Gwinnett today at 2 p.m. at Heard County, and Troup will host Central Gwinnett at 1:30 p.m.

On the boys’ side, Callaway will be joined in Division 5 by Northgate, Heard County, Allatoona, Villa Rica, Christian Heritage, Central-Carroll and Central Gwinnett.

Callaway will play Central Gwinnett today at 2 p.m. at Troup