The ball that was backhanded into the net didn’t even have time to bounce off the court before a contingent of the Lambert boys tennis team rushed through the gate and mobbed Garrett McVay.
McVay’s 6-3, 6-2 win over South Forsyth’s Jack Fullett was the one that clinched the Region 5-7A tennis title for the Longhorns on Wednesday at Fowler Park and gave Lambert the top seed for the state playoffs. There, in the first year of Class 7A competition, they have perhaps their best chance yet to make a title run.
“I’m not saying it will happen, but we have a better chance than we did at (Class) 6A, because there’s less competition than 7A,” Longhorns head coach Eric Hampton said.
There are fewer schools in the new class, but many powers in the old Class 6A, like Northview and Johns Creek, also stayed down in the smaller class. Further bolstering Lambert’s chances is the presence of top singles players Will Harper and Jack Metzger, who chose to come out for the high school season despite their future college plans – Harper with Dayton and Metzger with Sewanee – and pressure from travel coaches.
“We came up short last season,” Harper said, referring to Lambert’s semifinal loss Johns Creek last season. “…We weren’t satisfied with that, so we wanted to come back here and give it one more shot. It’s out senior year, (and) it’s our best chance, I think.”
Harper and Metzger dominated their matches, with Harper winning 6-1, 6-0 and Metgzer winning 6-1, 6-1. They were done well before McVay was in the No. 3 singles, and they knew that his match would be much less of a sure thing. In fact, Fullett had beaten McVay just months before.
McVay decisively flipped that script on Wednesday, though. He successfully contained Fullett’s forehand and extended points by staying back on the baseline.
Harper and Metzger didn’t want to let on too much about the significance of McVay’s match and put undue pressure on him, but once he saw the two seniors take their seats to watch him, McVay knew what he had a chance to do and that his match point would be championship point.
“I was like, ‘I know what they’re going to do,’” McVay said.
In the girls championship, Milton wound up with the loudest celebration, which came after Abbie Holcombe’s victory in the No. 2 singles match clinched the Eagles’ region title over South Forsyth, but the Lady War Eagles were far from morose about the loss.
By finishing second in the region, South qualified for the state playoffs for the first time since 2004, according to head coach Shari Frankel. South took the No. 1 doubles match and was in a tight battle in No. 2 doubles when Vidhula Prasanna, who had pushed the No. 2 singles match to three sets, eventually fell.
“It was neck and neck,” Frankel said. “It was awesome tennis.”