Tennis teams ready for state tournament

A trio of local tennis teams are hoping to get a long state playoff run started this week.

Both teams from Rockdale and the Heritage girls will open today and Thursday in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament.

The Heritage girls were stunned in the Region 8-AAAA championship match, losing 3-1 to Flowery Branch. That loss ended an impressive string of championships for the Patriots, who had won the last three league titles.

Despite the runner-up finish, Heritage is a dangerous team, led by No. 1 singles Alix Maloney, who got the only win over the Falcons. Maloney is joined by No. 2 singles Kaylee Humphries and No. 3 Ashley Merkel to form a strong trio. The Patriots host Region 7-AAAA No. 3 Chattahoochee Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the Rockdale Tennis Center.

At Rockdale, trips to the state tournament are starting to become a regular occurrence. The boys dropped a 3-2 match to host Madison County in the region championship match and will be the league's No. 2 seed for the second straight year, and will also host Region 7-AAAA Chattahoochee on Thursday at 3:30 p.m. at the tennis center.

After splitting the first four matches in the region final-Rockdale got wins from Patrick Sanders at No. 2 and Jason Lauritsen and Trey Hull at No. 1 doubles-Madison got a thrilling, 2-1 win at No. 2 doubles to grab the region title. Along with Sanders and the strong No. 1 doubles team, No. 1 Shoman Kasbekar was once again one of the finest singles players in Region 8-AAAA.

The Rockdale girls are also headed back to the state tournament for the second consecutive season after a third-place region finish. Led by one of the finest singles players in the state in No. 1 Summer Walker and a solid No. 1 doubles team in sisters Abby and Libby Bradford, the Bulldogs bounced back from a loss to eventual champion Flowery Branch in the semi finals to knock off host Madison County in the third-place match. Rockdale will head to Suwanee to play Region 7-AAAA No. 2 Lambert in the opening round today at 4:00 p.m.

"We definitely went down fighting, won some good close matches and they ... definitely fought hard today," said Rockdale coach Stephen Sansing said after the region tournament. "We're proud of them, hopefully this will carry over to the state playoffs."