Grangers Close Out Woodward, 3-1; LaGrange Bounces Into Tennis Final Four

So the Final Four it is.

The LaGrange High boys tennis team nailed down a berth in the Class AAAA State semifinals with a 3-1 win on the road against Woodward Academy on Wednesday afternoon in College Park.

Coach Kenny Moore’s Grangers won their 12th match in a row. The La-Grange High boys shocked Woodward Academy with the Granger win in the state quarterfinals. LaGrange High wasn’t going to leave with anything less than a State Tournament victory over the War Eagles.

“We are living up to expectations. We thought we would be pretty good (this year). The kids have worked hard,” said Moore.

LaGrange High still knew it would be hard-pressed to get out of College Park with a win over the War Eagles. But it happened for the LaGrange High boys, and it wasn’t by accident.

“We’re talented, and we are back where we ought to be (in the Final Four). These guys just like to play. We don’t have any real stars, but we have improved a lot this year. We kept the pressure on (Woodward Academy),” said Grangers assistant coach David Traylor. “We had some good baseline strokes.”

The clinching match for the Grangers came at No. 1 singles as senior Blade Kendall came back for a 2-6, 6-1, 6-2 win over WoodwardAcademy’sDerek Zhov. The match was very much in doubt until Kendall re-discovered his tennis mojo in the second and third sets.

But Kendall insisted. He carried the Granger team on his back.

“That was Blade’s best match ever. He was determined to get it turned around. Blade stuck to it. He is a fierce competitor,” said Moore.

Kendall was getting all heated up, too.

“I was extremely exhausted. I used some slices, and I made him (Zhov) work,” said Kendall.

LaGrange High only required two sets at No. 2 singles to win. Sophomore Pierce Skinner mowed down the War Eagles’ Stuart Gordon, 6-2, 6-3.

“We don’t have a weak player (on our team), and we have the faith,” said Gavin Battle, the LaGrange High doubles player.

Battle and Granger junior Jackson Kuerzi needed a few extra games, but they still beat the War Eagles No. 1 doubles team of Andrew Pressgrove and Finn Gosch. Battle and Kuerzi were relentless in a 6-4, 6-2 win.

“We played smart, and we were dominant. They couldn’t pass us, and we were big at the net,” said Battle, the senior.

And the Granger boys are going to the Class AAAA tennis Final Four. Mark it down.

“I’m liking this journey. We are pretty good,” said Kendall.

Chris Fernsler Sports Writer