The Woodland girls and boys tennis teams gutted out impressive 3-2 wins in Saturday’s championship matches of the Panther Invitational hosted by Southwest DeKalb.
On the girls side, Westlake won rather easily on Line 1 singles and Line 2 doubles to put the pressure on the rest of the Woodland lineup.
Kayla Gales eased to a 6-0, 6-1 win on Line 2 singles. Line 3’s Eryn Gentry, typically a doubles player this season, emerged with a hard-fought 6-2, 4-6, 10-7 victory. Meanwhile, the Line 1 doubles pairing of Monterya Morrow and Bella Isaacson pulled off a tough 7-5, 7-5 triumph.
Maybe most impressively for the Woodland girls was being able to win the tournament, which included a quarterfinal match Friday night and a semifinal earlier Saturday, without being able to use its tried and true lineup from a majority of the season.
“Our girls played this without two of our starters,” Woodland coach Beth Heath said in a text. “I had my starters [minus Abby Spaulding with a sprained ankle] for the Friday match. All of my ladies stepped up and played their hearts out. I’m so proud of all of them.”
On the other side, the Wildcats have struggled all year to find a consistent lineup. It’s likely cost them several tight matches. But this weekend could prove to be the turning point for the boys.
“We have worked this entire season trying to determine a lineup that worked,” Heath said. “We’ve struggled all season with doubles combinations on our boys team. We finally found a lineup that seems to work. Our doubles teams played very well together and moving Ian [VanOrder] to singles has proven to be the right move.”
In the championship match against the host Panthers, the Wildcats earned their typical Line 1 and Line 2 singles victories. Bryce VanOrder had a virtual walkover at Line 1, winning 6-0, 6-0, while Connor Gunnell ‘s opponent retired trailing 5-0 in the opening set.
While the Woodland Line 1 doubles team lost in a tiebreak, it ultimately didn’t matter, as Garrett Wesley and Mason Tucker teamed up for a comfortable 6-1, 6-1 Line 2 win.
In Saturday’s semifinal action, the Woodland boys topped Tucker by a 5-0 score. There were forfeits on the two doubles lines, but the Wildcats made quick work of the Tigers. Bryce VanOrder (6-0, 6-1), Gunnell (6-0, 6-0) and Ian VanOrder (6-1, 6-4) all produced straight-sets wins.
While the boys cruised into the finals, the Woodland girls faced a stiff challenge in the semis, emerging with a 3-2 victory over Eagle’s Landing. Emma Savage earned a 6-0, 6-4 win on Line 3 singles, and both doubles teams (Isaacson and Morrow, Gentry and Lindy Morris) picked up easy wins.
Speaking of east wins, there were plenty of them to be had in Friday’s opening-round matches. The girls dominated the hosts by a 5-0 score with SW DeKalb openly winning two games across the 10 sets.
Breanna Shook and Becky Wesley both won by scores of 6-0, 6-0 on Lines 1 and 2, respectively, while Isaacson and Morrow did the same on Line 2 doubles. Kayla Gales and the reliable combination of Gentry and Savage each waltzed to 6-0, 6-1 triumphs.
Friday saw the boys land a 4-1 win over Langston Hughes. Bryce VanOrder won 6-1, 6-2 on Line 1, while Gunnell didn’t drop a single game on Line 2. Adam Pirkle and Keegan Gallagher earned a 6-4, 6-1 win. Garrett Wesley and Tucker barely broke a sweat in a 6-1, 6-1 victory.