Granger tennis players headed to college
By Kevin Eckleberry
LAGRANGE – After helping the LaGrange High boys’ tennis team put together a memorable season, Blade Kendall and Gavin Battle are ready for the next challenge.
Kendall and Battle, who are closing in on the finish line of their time as high-school students, are both going to be playing tennis on the collegiate level.
Kendall, who held down the number one singles spot for the Grangers the past two seasons, is heading to Reinhardt University after signing his letter of intent.
Battle, a doubles standout for the Grangers, is going to LaGrange College, and in addition to joining the tennis team, he’ll also be playing basketball for head coach Kendall Wallace.
This week, both men were part of a signing celebration that was held in the LaGrange High media center.
It was a big turnout, with dozens of those closest to Battle and Kendall on hand to celebrate the moment with them.
There were teammates, friends, family members, teachers and coaches there to help make the day a special one for the two Grangers.
“It’s great, definitely pretty much having all the influences I’ve had throughout my tennis career,” Kendall said. “Being in the same room, where I can give thanks to all of them means a lot. The only person that wasn’t here that I wish could have been is Donna Garrett. But it was great having them all here.”
Battle was appreciative of all the friends who were there for him.
“I love it,” he said. “A lot of these friends have never met before, so that’s kind of nice. It’s really cool to see all my friends here.”
LaGrange head coach Kenny Moore introduced his two players during the ceremony.
“It is such a pleasure to come and celebrate with not only two good tennis players, but with two fine young men,” Moore said. “And that’s what’s most important. And also, they represent just fine families that have been so supportive of our program, and so supportive of their teammates. I can’t say enough about them.”
Battle and Kendall were instrumental players for the Grangers, who won the Region 5-AAAA championship before reaching the final four of the state tournament.
In the quarterfinals, LaGrange went on the road and beat a strong Woodward Academy team before falling to Marist in the semifinals.
In the Woodward Academy match, it was Kendall coming through with the decisive victory.
After dropping the first set 6-2, Kendall won the next two sets 6-1 and 6-2 to give LaGrange its third win that wrapped up the team victory.
Kendall has had plenty of special moments during his time as a Granger, but it’d be hard to eclipse securing the victory that puts your team in the final four.
“I’d have to say that’s at the top,” Kendall said. “I didn’t know we’d won. I’d finished my match, and I was tired. I came off, and we’d won, so I was pretty excited about that. At first, I was just glad to have the match over with. It was very surprising.”
Now, Kendall is ready to embark on a new challenge, and he’s happy he’ll be able to do it at Reinhardt.
Another former Granger, Emory DeLoach, is a senior on the current Reinhardt tennis team.
“He’s the one that got me interested in the school, really got me checking it out,” Kendall said. “I went out and toured it, and it’s a great college.”
Battle was one half of the number one doubles team along with Jackson Kuerzi, and those two were an unbeatable combo.
Against Marist, Battle and Kuerzi lost the first set but were leading 5-4 in the second set when the match was called since Marist had already secured the victory.
Earlier in his high-school days, Battle played basketball and tennis before he eventually decided to focus on one sport.
“I’ve always played basketball,” Battle said. “It was ashamed the better I got at tennis, the less I played basketball.”
When he decided to join the tennis team at LaGrange College, Battle figured he’d see about playing basketball as well, and it worked out.
“I tried out, and I made it,” Battle said. “It’s great.”
Moore said Battle and Kendall both showed a lot of determination during their time as Grangers.
“They didn’t make the varsity as young players, and then the next year they just got better, and the next year they just got better, and kept improving,” Moore said. “Both Blade and Gavin are fantastic players on a pretty stinkin’ good tennis team.
“I just applaud them, applaud what they’ve done, and am just so proud of them.”
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