Lambert freshman Kennedy Lewis waited her turn, cracking jokes with parents and players as the four courts were filled with competition.
When she finally walked onto the asphalt, reaction from the results of other matches drew attention away from the moment, creating a calm, subdued environment. For Lewis, taking on Chattahoochee’s No. 3 singles player in Sofia Soltis, this match was personal—she had lost a match she thought she should have won against Soltis earlier in the season.
So Lewis started off hard on herself, and frustrated, falling behind in the first set and deflecting words of encouragement with frustrated banter. As the match intensified, more players, parents and coaches began to line the bleachers.
Somewhere between the first set, which Lewis finally pulled out, and the second, the score between defending Region 6-AAAAAA champion Lambert and Chattahoochee had been knotted at 2-2. The Lady Longhorns—a team with eight seniors—were crossing their fingers, suppressing their anxiety and cheering on Lewis.
After dropping the second set, amplifying the intensity even more as a sudden-death final would decide the title, Lewis’ game got stronger as her opponent fizzled out.
Lewis pulled out the final set with ease, 6-0, to give Lambert a dramatic 3-2 victory in the Region 6 Tournament on Wednesday at Fowler Park in Cumming, securing a No. 1 seed in the GHSA state tournament.
Lambert has now won five region titles and its second in a row. The state tournament will begin April 21 and run through May 7. Lambert advanced to the second round last year before being shut out by eventual state champion Walton.
“I really just wanted to win,” Lewis said, out of breath moments after the team hoisted the trophy. “I lost the last time I played her, so I just this drive to win. I was so focused and wanting to do well for my team. This, this feels really good.”
Lewis’ deciding victory came well over an hour after teammates Lyndsey Pulliam and Madison Coffin defeated Caroline Kauffman and Emma Baginski to even the score at 2-2, giving Lambert a fighting chance.
“We know not one person wins the team and not one person loses it,” Lambert head coach Lois Mickles said. “Everybody does their best and if someone stumbles you’ve got to have someone to be right there and pick it up. That’s what (Kennedy) did today.”
The Longhorns were in hot water early on as both Taylor Despriet and Caroline Wakefield lost in line one and two singles action against Aishwarya Kona and Carli Deehr, respectively. For much of the match the momentum was with Chattahoochee, which came in to the tournament final strong after a fourth-place finish last season.
“I think we stunned Chattahoochee,” Mickles said. “We lost to them last time and Kennedy played the same girl, but we had a difference outcome today because she has stepped it up and fit in as the season has gone on.
“We always believe that we can beat anybody. This has been a very emotional season. I think the teams this year were a little stronger, we had transition and trying to figure out lineups all year, but I think we’re peaking at the right time. We believe in ourselves and we’re ready for state.”