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Tennis: Lambert falls in title matches, sets sight to future
Lambert senior Katie Lewis lunges to return a ball Saturday during the Longhorns' 3-1 loss to Walton in the Class 7A state championship match. - photo by David Roberts

ROME — Lambert's dominant run through the Class 7A playoffs ended Saturday at the Rome Tennis Center, with the boys team falling 3-0 to North Gwinnett and the girls team losing 3-1 to Walton.

But if there's any positive to take from Saturday's defeat, it didn't take long for Lambert boys coach Eric Hampton to find it.

"We'll be here again next year," Hampton said. "Lord willing, if we're lucky enough and everybody stay healthy, all those clichés and platitudes. We'll be here again next year."

Lambert's boys will graduate just one senior from this year's team in Skyler Feng.

Lambert's girls are in a similar situation, graduating three seniors in Brooke Despriet, Katie Lewis and Nina Zhao.

"I'm very excited for where we're heading in the future, and what we're capable of doing," Lambert girls coach Stephen Pate said. "Next year's going to be an important year for how we choose to come back. When your history is you've played in the state championship three years in a row, there's a lot of pressure in terms of repeating that success. But I'm comfortable that if they work the way they're supposed to work, then we'll be OK."

Lambert's lone victory came from Emily Baek, a freshman who won 6-1, 6-4 at No. 2 singles. Despriet lost 6-1, 6-4 at No. 1 singles, while Peyton Riley fell 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles and Riley Abellana and Sydney Winters lost 6-2, 6-4, 6-2 at No. 2 doubles. 

North Gwinnett's boys swept Lambert's doubles, winning 6-2, 6-2 in No. 1 doubles and 7-6, 6-2 in No. 2 doubles, while Braxton Wright lost at No. 1 singles to Matthew Sloan. 

"I think for the guys that were here first, like my No. 1 doubles team, I think they were a little overtaken by the environment," Hampton said. "I told one of them, 'You're like the Tasmanian devil running around out here. Slow down.' They were just so jacked up."

Aidan Atwood was tied 5-5 with Jason Kim after dropping the first set 4-6, and Holden Artz was in control early against Richard Zhou, but dropped a back-and-forth first set 7-6. 

Both Lambert teams swept their way to the state championship, winning each round 3-0.

"I told them the same thing I told them in the huddle, which is that I'm so appreciative that they chose to come out and play," Pate said of his seniors, "because it would have been very easy to get a new coach — Brooke had already signed, Katie knew where she was going, Nina knew where she was going — and just, 'You know, I don't think I want to do tennis this year.' But they looked at our team as a break, or a respite, so they wanted to be a part of everything. 

"Every time I would text one of them and say, 'Are you good to play tomorrow'? They'd be like, 'I'm good to do whatever you want me to do.' It's very easy to coach when your leaders do that."