COVINGTON - For the first time in Newton history, the girls tennis team has made it to the Sweet 16 after beating Paulding County 5-0 on Wednesday.
The Newton boys saw their season end on the road, losing at Paulding County 3-2.
"I was home and this feeling came over me, I was in tears. It finally struck me that we were going to the second round and we've never done that before," Newton girls coach Jackie Mattison said. "(Most of) these girls started as freshmen and didn't know that much about tennis, but they worked really hard. To make it this far after four years affirms the fact that if you work hard at something and stick to it then success comes."
Newton's girls had little trouble winning most of their sets in commanding fashion.
The closest set that completed an entire match was a 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles. While Ashley Gunter at No. 3 singles also had a two-game set, 7-5, she did not finish her match, winning the second set by forfeit.
"That's what really hit me; we didn't just win, we won 5-0. We really only had one close set and that was a 6-4 set. Ashley was 7-5 but she didn't get a chance to come back and show us what she could do in that second set," Mattison said.
The tone was set at No. 2 singles with a 6-2, 6-0 win by Erinn Lewis-Faupel.
"It was the first time I won a state match and that was really exciting," Lewis-Faupel said. "I looked around after I finished and noticed that the rest of my team was winning, so I was pretty excited about that."
Kierstie Moon put Newton up 2-0 with her 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 1 singles.
The Lady Rams advanced to the Sweet 16 with a 6-4, 6-2 win at No. 1 doubles by Holly Springer and Stephanie Cronan.
"I came off the court laughing and smiling and just so happy and excited. Sweet 16 is awesome, it's the first time ever," Cronan said.
With the match in hand, Courtney Reagan and Rhiannon Long continued the sweep with their 6-3, 6-3 win at No. 2 doubles.
The Lady Rams will play in the second round Monday at Colquitt County.
All season the Newton boys were carried by their more experienced singles players. Unfortunately, the trio was unable to continue its sweep of the competition by only winning at No. 1 and No. 3 singles against Paulding Coiunty.
With 6-0 losses at both doubles, No. 3 singles Bryant Miller kept Newton's hopes alive with a 6-3, 6-4 win over Michael Butler.
"Bryant is our most improved player. He's never played before," Newton boys coach Andrew Clink said. "He's become a solid No. 3 man."
After losing his first set 6-0 and trailing in the second set 5-2, No. 1 singles player Tyler Gose rose to the occasion to win the second set 7-6 (8-6 in the tie breaker) to tie the match at one set each.
Gose came back and dominated Perry Gulledge to win the third set 6-2 and even the games at two each.
"The other player lost his nerve and started getting upset," Clink said. "I told Tyler that tennis is mostly mental and not physical. Tyler kept his cool and came back and won."
Newton started No. 2 singles in good shape with Mark DeAlva beating Rodney Crenshaw 6-3. However, DeAlva was unable to maintain his energy and physical levels to continue playing at the same pace. He eventually lost the second and third sets 6-1, 6-2.
"Mark played really well in the first set then he got really tired and started cramping up a little. He was worn out as the match went on," Clink said. "I thought everyone played well and up to their level. We just barely lost."
Manny Fils can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.