LaGrange nets region championship
By Kevin Eckleberry
CARROLLTON – The championship hopes of the LaGrange High boys’ tennis team rested on the racket of freshman Youngha Cho.
LaGrange and Cartersville faced off for the Region 5-AAAA title on Wednesday afternoon at Sunset Hills Country Club in Carrollton, and with one match remaining, both teams had two wins.
That meant the outcome would be determined by the number three singles match between Cho and Ross Norwood of Cartersville.
The two men split the first two sets, and it was tied at three games apiece in the third and deciding set.
Would a freshman who hadn’t been a part of the lineup throughout the season be up to the challenge?
Indeed he was.
Cho won the final three games to win the final set 6-3 and secure the region championship for the Grangers.
LaGrange’s other two wins came in doubles, with the teams of Gavin Battle and Jackson Kuerzi and Tiger Lakhwani and Will Hunnicutt prevailing.
Cho was only in the lineup because Blade Kendall, LaGrange’s normal number one player, was unable to go because of illness.
That forced LaGrange coach Kenny Moore to reshuffle the lineup, and he turned to Cho to occupy one of the singles slots.
“This time of year, you say the freshmen are not freshmen anymore because they’ve had a whole year (of playing),” Moore said. “Well, he hasn’t played a meaningful match in his life, until now. And he played the deciding match of the region championship.”
In the first set, Cho showed no signs of nerves as he rolled to a 6-0 win, but Norwood won the second set 6-4.
The players traded games in the final set until Cho took control, and his strategy wasn’t a complicated one.
“I just tried to keep the ball in play, just like my coach said, and just to run after every ball, and give everything,” Cho said.
After the final point, Cho’s teammates charged onto the court to celebrate the moment with him.
It took Cho a bit by surprise since he didn’t realize how important his match was.
“I honestly didn’t know that I was the deciding match,” Cho said.
At number two doubles, Lakhwani and Hunnicutt won the first set 6-4 against John Blackhall and Griffin Shaw, but they lost the second set 6-4.
The third set was close, and it was Lakhwani and Hunnicutt pulling out a 6-4 victory to give the Grangers a critical victory.
In the number one doubles match, Battle and Kuerzi handled Juan Zazueta and Ivy Nelson 6-2 in the first set, but they found themselves trailing 5-1 in the second set.
The two Grangers recovered and won 7-5, though, to get the straight-sets win.
Battle said he was frustrated with how things were going early in the second set, and he used that to help him turn things around.
“I play a whole lot better when I’m upset,” Battle said. “Especially with my serve, that’s my way of taking out my anger. I just take it out on the ball.”
With LaGrange up 6-5, Battle had a dominant service game as LaGrange clinched the victory.
At number one singles, Pierce Skinner delivered an inspired effort for LaGrange, but it wasn’t enough against Cartersville’s Will Allen.
Skinner lost the first set 7-5, but he dominated the second set and won 6-1, and it was on to the third and final set.
The third set finished tied 6-6, so the match was decided by a tiebreak.
After falling behind 6-3 in the tiebreak, Skinner won two straight points to get within one, but Allen won the next point to secure the victory.
At number two singles, it was Cartersville’s Matthew Slocum beating LaGrange’s Tony Choi 7-5, 6-2.
GIRLS TENNIS: LaGrange beat Cedartown 3-1 to finished third in Region 5-AAAA, while Cartersville beat Central-Carroll in the championship match.
One of LaGrange’s wins came at number two singles, with Lizzie Wilkerson beating Suzanne Ellis 6-1, 6-0.
At number three singles, LaGrange’s Jina Shin handled Katie Puckett 6-2, 6-1.
LaGrange also won at number one doubles, with Jamie Livingston and Kaylee Key beating Josie Allen and Jodie Grace Kelley 6-2, 6-3.
At number two doubles, Kelsey Anne Cadenhead and Lauren Yarbrough were leading Rachel Helmes and Sydney Tanner 6-1 in the first set when the match was pulled.
At number one singles, LaGrange’s Abbi Lynn Lanier fell to Campbell Parhan 6-2, 6-2.
OF NOTE: For photos from Wednesday’s match, check out Facebook.com/LDNSports