Experience does matter in the Class AAAA State Tennis Tournament.
Just ask the Grangers. LaGrange High inserted five seniors in its lineup in the second round of the boys state playoffs on Thursday afternoon. Where that left the Grangers was with a 5-0 conquest over Albany Westover in the matches at the McCluskey Tennis Center in LaGrange.
The Grangers found their comfort zone with seniors Blade Kendall, Tony Choi, Tiger Lakhwani, Will Hunnicutt and Gavin Battle. They made themselves at home, and they pounded the Patriots from singles to doubles.
“We are confident. This is our last run at state,” Lakhawni said of the LaGrange High seniors. “We have chemistry and good shots.”
The Grangers are playing like their season is on the line. And it is. The LaGrange High boys have won 11 consecutive matches dating back to the regular season. As for the state tournament, LaGrange High has not lost as much as one set in two matches against West Hall and Westover.
“We’re pouncing (on them). We’re getting tougher mentally, and we’re keeping the ball in play,” said Grangers head coach Kenny Moore.
LaGrange High is wiping up the competition. At No. 1 doubles, Battle and Jackson Kuerzi won in straight sets, 6-0, 6-0 against Westover senior Jarrett Smith and sophomore Johnson J. Robinson.
“We have experience and skills. We have a connection. We have energy and good height. We haven’t felt the pressure (of the State Tournament yet). We have (good) forehands and volleys,” said Kuerzi, the LHS junior.
The Grangers No. 2 doubles team, Lakhwani and Hunnicutt, won in straight sets, too, 6-0, 6-0 over Patriot freshmen Keewon Mathis and Antonio Allen.
“We kept the ball in, and we won some points. We had a good net game,” said Lakhwani.
Choi brought some more senior leadership to No. 3 singles for the Grangers. Choi didn’t take very long in winning, 6-0, 6-0 against Westover senior Alex Clenney. The LaGrange High singles player, Choi, displayed a lot of flash, and dash and a variety of winning shots.
“My forehand was consistent, and my serve was consistent. I let the other guy miss. I was at the top of my game,” said Choi.
Granger sophomore Pierce Skinner played some flawless tennis, too. Skinner beat Patriots senior Marcial Saavera, 6-1, 6-0 at No. 2 singles.
“We have a shot to make it to the finals (in the State Tournament). We’re good at the net and the baseline. We’re playing well, and we win a lot,” said LaGrange High assistant tennis coach David Traylor.
Kendall is another reason why the Grangers could make a deep run in the state playoffs. Kendall, the LHS senior, won again against Patriot senior John Hatcher. Kendall had plenty left for a 6-3, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles.
“He (Hatcher) was shaky on some shots, and he couldn’t handle my slices,” said Kendall.
The Grangers ran their record to 19-3. Westover ended its season at 6-4.
“Fundamentals always win out. LaGrange had the homecourt psychological advantage,” said Patriots head coach Robert Alexander.