Zenoni scores clincher as Walton wins repeat title
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
May 11, 2014 04:00 AM | 1423 views | 0 0 comments | 8 8 recommendations | email to a friend | print
While Walton’s girls tennis program still has a ways to go to match its record-setting streaks of a few years ago, the Lady Raiders were able to take one step Saturday by winning their second straight Class AAAAAA state championship.
<Br>Special photo by Cecil Copeland
While Walton’s girls tennis program still has a ways to go to match its record-setting streaks of a few years ago, the Lady Raiders were able to take one step Saturday by winning their second straight Class AAAAAA state championship.
Special photo by Cecil Copeland
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JONESBORO — Walton knows all about playing under extreme pressure.

So, too, does Suzanne Zenoni.

The Lady Raiders’ Class AAAAAA state championship match against Alpharetta on Saturday at Clayton County International Park came down to one of two matches — Zenoni’s at No. 2 singles, or the No. 1 doubles team of Katie Riley and Jessica Cramer.

Both matches were in the third set by the time Walton’s Bella Kuse lost a three-setter at No. 1 singles, and with both of the remaining points capable of going either way, the Lady Raiders could not afford to lose both.

Ultimately, Zenoni was the one who stepped up first, working on a slightly faster pace than her doubles teammates. She beat Alpharetta’s Lucy Williams 6-3, 5-7, 6-2 for the final point of Walton’s 3-1 win.

Walton now has a streak of 35 straight wins after its previous streak of 158 straight — the all-sport state record — was halted by Roswell in the 2012 state quarterfinals.

It also gave the Lady Raiders a new streak of two state championships, to add to the eight in a row they won during their unprecedented winning streak. In all, the Walton program has won 16 state titles since 1989.

Once Johanna Keeline came off the court with a 6-1, 6-2 win at No. 3 singles, and Emily and Grace Gaskins breezed their way to a 6-1, 6-1 win at No. 2 doubles, the remaining three matches would not come easy for Walton.

Cramer and Riley lost a set for the first time in the three years they’ve played together, when Alpharetta’s Danielle Bowers and Christina Oudin — the younger sister of tennis pro Melanie and her twin, former Walker School ace Katherine — won 7-5 to force a third set.

Zenoni served for the second set at 5-4 and was two points away from winning before Williams won three straight to send the match into a third set.

Kuse appeared to have momentum after rallying to win the second set against Ellen Jang-Milsten, but Jang-Milstein caught a second wind in the third set and won the match 6-3, 4-6, 6-1.

“It came down to the No. 2 singles and No. 1 doubles, and it was nerve-racking,” Walton coach Christy Lewis said. “But I was confident that they would come through. It helps having experience being here.”

Even though Zenoni lost the second set at No. 2, Williams went for shots quicker than she did earlier in the match, and she took a longer time in between points.

With the score tied at 2-all, Zenoni continued her steady play on the baseline, and fatigue appeared to set in on Williams’ side of the court. As a result, Zenoni won the final four games relatively handily.

“When she got tired, that pumped me up, and I capitalized on it,” Zenoni said. “I wanted to move her around more (in the third set), loosen up and go for my shots.”

Consistency was hard to come by for Cramer and Riley in their match against Bowers and Oudin. They trailed 5-2 in the first set before winning five straight games to take the opener 7-5.

Cramer and Riley also fell behind 5-2 in the second set, and they were a point away from tying it at 5-all on Riley’s serve before Alpharetta rallied to prevail.

“It was hard,” Cramer said, “but we were like, ‘Let’s put this behind us, and let’s move ahead.’”

Cramer and Riley seemed unfazed at the start of the third set, when they took a 4-0 lead, but Bowers and Oudin scrapped their way back into the match with three straight games before Zenoni’s singles point clinched the championship.
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