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Stopped short
Lady Patriots' historic season ends in semifinals

JONESBORO - The Heritage girls tennis team ran into a buzz saw in the Class AAAA semifinals Friday at the Clayton County Tennis Complex.

Glynn Academy ended the Lady Patriots' historic season of firsts with a 3-0 victory to earn a berth in the state championship match.

"We came out and got a slow start. Momentum is big in these matches, and we never had any," Heritage girls coach Brian Smith said. "We rebounded a little in the middle of the first set in a couple of our matches, but, with the momentum against us, it was just hard to gain the upper hand."

Glynn Academy prevailed at No. 1 and No. 2 singles to take a commanding 2-0 lead.

Heritage senior Stephanie Humphries dropped a 6-0, 6-2 decision at No. 2 singles and junior Taylor Maloney fell 6-2, 6-3 at No. 1 singles.

Glynn Academy wrapped up the trip to the state championship with a 6-1, 6-3 victory over sophomores Callie Alford and Amanda Voyles at No. 1 doubles.

Heritage freshman Alix Maloney was up a set at No. 3 singles when the match was stopped. At No. 2 doubles, sophomore Keeli Smith and freshman Kaylee Humphries had rallied to tie their match at a set apiece.

"They won at one and two singles (to get the lead). We were right in the hunt there at three singles and two doubles, but they had a really strong No. 1 doubles team that put the exclamation point on the win," Smith said. "Glynn Academy is a great tennis program. They definitely have some talent, and we gave them our best shot."

Still, the future is extremely bright for the Lady Patriots, who will return six of their top seven players next season. They will only lose Stephanie Humphries at No. 2 singles to graduation.

"We're real excited about next season," Smith said. "We got our first region title (this year) and they've experienced a Final Four. At their young age, if they'll continue to work in the offseason, the sky is the limit for this group with two freshmen, three sophomores and one junior in the starting lineup."

With the loss, Heritage finishes the season with a 20-4 record, which includes the first girls tennis region title in school history as well as the first 20-win season.

"These girls have found a way to win all season," Smith said. "We have a lot of depth on our team. From one to seven our skill level is about the same, which in team tennis is very important.

"I knew we had a chance to do real well. Final Four, that's a long way. If you had asked me at the start of the season if we'd have been here, I'd have said, 'Wow, that would be a great season.' But when you're here, you want to win. We gave it our best shot, but Glynn Academy was the better team today."