ATLANTA - The Heritage boys tennis team ended up a little short in its quest for back-to-back trips to the Class AAAA Final Four.
The Patriots (18-6) dropped a 3-1 decision to host Marist on Tuesday in the Class AAAA quarterfinals.
Last year, Heritage beat St. Pius in the quarterfinals. This time, however, the Patriots were unable to come up with victories in one or two matches that could have turned the tide in their favor against a strong Marist team.
"We competed hard, we did some great things out there and played well," Heritage coach Chuck Landy said. "But we couldn't find a way to get the third (match) that we needed."
The Patriots took the early lead in the match when Brad Hardin and Blake Craft chalked up a 6-0, 6-4 win at No. 1 doubles.
Heritage's Zach Landy fell 6-2, 6-1 at No. 2 singles as Marist evened up the match.
At No. 2 singles, Heritage's Jacob Zirbel and J.J. Ramsey dropped a 6-3, 6-4 decision, giving Marist a 2-1 edge.
Heritage's Jonathan Stone was locked in a marathon struggle at No. 1 singles. The junior lost the first set 6-4, but battled back to claim the second set 6-4.
While Stone was playing in a tight third set, Heritage's Cody Provence was defeated 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles, wrapping up the victory for Marist.
"Brad and Blake played fantastic for us. They were really sharp," Landy said. "J.J. and Jacob started a little slow, but they really came back strong. We knew deep down we needed that one (at No. 2 doubles). They battled to the end, but unfortunately, they came up a little short.
"It was great match, it was very competitive. We had a shot, but we just didn't get it done. I don't think there was anything more we could have done to get our guys ready to play."
The loss is the end of the line for four seniors - Craft, Hardin, Ramsey and Zirbel - who have been instrumental in Heritage's recent rise in the Class AAAA ranks.
"When you look back, these four seniors that we had on the court today have helped us win 40 tennis matches over the last two years," Landy said. "That is just a phenomenal accomplishment. To have the run that they did, two region championships, two trips deep into the state tournament, 40 victories, they've done some fantastic things and have a lot to be proud of. They've given us something to build on.
"We couldn't have asked for anything more out of these guys. They are four seniors that just love to play. They set a great example for everybody on our team."
Jeff Gillespie can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.