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Heritage claims second straight 8-AAAA title
Patriots mow down competition for region tennis crown

DANIELSVILLE - Write it down: for the moment, the Heritage boys tennis team owns Region 8-AAAA.

The Patriots (16-5) notched their second straight region championship on Friday night at Madison County High School, breezing to a 3-0 victory over Dacula in the semifinals and 3-0 decision over Habersham Central in the title match.

"It's just fantastic to win the region championship two years in a row," Heritage coach Chuck Landy said. "In the first match today against Dacula, I thought we played outstanding. We were sharp on every court.

"And then, we did have a long break because it took a while for the other semifinal match to finish up. We came back out and had some good matches with Habersham Central, which has a very good team. There were good, competitive matches on every court. When it got tight a couple times, we found a way to pull back through. Our guys are great competitors and good fighters and it showed out there today."

In the semifinal match, Jonathan Stone gave the Patriots a 1-0 lead over Dacula with a 6-1, 6-3 victory at No. 1 singles. Blake Craft and Brad Hardin made it 2-0 with a 6-2, 6-3 win at No. 1 doubles.

Zach Landy closed out the victory over the Falcons with a 6-1, 6-4 win at No. 2 singles.

In the championship match against Habersham Central, Landy set the early tone for the Patriots, breezing to an easy 6-0, 6-0 victory at No. 2 singles.

"Zach played well in his first match earlier against Dacula, but we talked to him about trying to finish (out his match). He has a tendency sometimes to play well in the first set and then kind of let up a little bit and get a little more conservative. But against Habersham Central, he stayed aggressive the whole match. It was good to get him on the court, get him off (the court) and get a win under our belts," the Heritage coach said.

In fact, Heritage grabbed a one-set lead in all four matches that were being played at the time.

J.J. Ramsey and Jacob Zirbel got the Patriots one step closer to the region repeat with a 6-2, 6-2 victory at No. 2 doubles.

With the region title almost in Heritage's grasp, Craft and Hardin wrapped it up with a second-set rally. After winning the first set 6-2, the Patriots' No. 1 doubles team trailed 4-3 in the second before winning four of the last five games to claim the set and the championship 7-5. Craft took care of match point with an emphatic ace.

"The good thing about our team is we've got enough really good players that everybody finds a way to contribute," Landy said. "Our two doubles, Jacob and J.J., played well early and got us the second win. After that, with we had left out there, we felt good.

"This year started when we finished up the season last year. We lost in the final four (to McIntosh). These guys have played and played and played and gotten so much better. I think it really showed today, because a lot of these teams had some of the same kids last year, but we felt, with all the work we put in, we improved a lot."

A testament to Heritage's dominance in 8-AAAA competition over the last two seasons is its record in individual matches. The Patriots are 117-2 in individual matches against 8-AAAA foes, including a perfect 59-0 mark this season.

Heritage will host the No. 4 seed from Region 6-AAAA in the first round of the state tournament next week.

Jeff Gillespie can be reached at jeff.gillespie@rockdalecitizen.com.