Grangers advance in state tournament
By KEVIN ECKLEBERRY
The journey continues for the LaGrange Grangers, who eased past Perry in the second round of the Class AAAA state tennis tournament on Thursday afternoon.
LaGrange, which had a first-round bye, won all five matches against Perry to prevail 5-0 and advance to the quarterfinals to play North Oconee.
It has been an outstanding season for the Grangers, who earned home-court advantage in the second round by winning the Region 2-AAAA championship.
After losing to Columbus in the regular season, LaGrange won the rematch in the region-championship showdown at Cooper Creek in Columbus.
The Grangers followed that up with Thursday’s win, and now they’re one of eight teams left standing in the state tournament.
“It’s been amazing (this season), especially since this was our first time winning region during our four years,” said Baker Skinner, one of the team’s seniors. “That made everything so much better.”
Skinner and fellow senior Yongjin Shin teamed up to win the number one doubles match on Thursday, while Towson Partin and Trace Smith won the number two doubles match.
LaGrange’s singles winners were Pierce Manning, Wesley Minicozzi and Greg Terry.
None of Thursday’s matches were competitive, which was a stark contrast to the Columbus match. Manning won handily at number one singles against Columbus, but the other four matches were all tight.
Minicozzi and Terry, after losing in the earlier meeting with Columbus, both won the second time around. Columbus won the two doubles matches, but LaGrange captured the three singles matches to earn the win.
“(Winning region) made everything so much better,” Skinner said. “Even though we personally didn’t win our match, the championship was awesome.”
LaGrange and Columbus have an intense rivalry, and Skinner was grateful to see he and his teammates get the upper-hand.
“We don’t really like them that much. It felt really good to beat them,” Skinner said. “That was the highlight of the season so far.”
Reflecting on the region-championship match, Moore knows how critical it was for Minicozzi and Terry to turn the tables on Columbus after they both lost a few weeks earlier.
“Going into the region championship, I felt like we had a little bit of a chance, but we were a real underdog,” Moore said. “Two kids that I thought didn’t have any chance, won it for us.”
All season, Moore said the attitude among the players is to “just keep working, and believe that you can do it.”
In Thursday’s matchup, LaGrange won all five of the matches handily.
At number one singles, Manning overwhelmed Evan Zammit 6-0, 6-0.
The story was the same at number two singles with Minicozzi beating Evan Parsons 6-1, 6-0, and Terry handled Brannen Moss 6-0, 6-2 at number three singles.
At number one doubles, Skinner and Shin topped Walker Passineault and Wyatt Blount 6-0, 6-1. Skinner and Shin, the only seniors who were in the lineup, have been playing together all season, and the chemistry the two have has paid dividends.
“I know where he’s going to move, and he knows where I’m going to move,” Shin said.
At number two doubles, Partin and Smith blanked Will Rumph and Zanth Vadan 6-0, 6-0.