Lady Raiders given a battle in quarterfinals
by Adam Carrington
acarrington@mdjonline.com
May 05, 2010 12:00 AM | 2219 views | 0 0 comments | 16 16 recommendations | email to a friend | print

Walton’s Emily Zabor stretches for a return to Peachtree Ridge’s Mary Jeremiah in a battle between aces in Tuesday’s Class AAAAA state quarterfinals. In one of three heated singles matches, Zabor prevailed in three sets and the Lady Raiders held off one of their toughest battles of the season.
Walton’s Emily Zabor stretches for a return to Peachtree Ridge’s Mary Jeremiah in a battle between aces in Tuesday’s Class AAAAA state quarterfinals. In one of three heated singles matches, Zabor prevailed in three sets and the Lady Raiders held off one of their toughest battles of the season.
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MARIETTA - Walton's girls tennis team knew for weeks its six-year-long winning streak would be tested if it faced Peachtree Ridge in the Class AAAAA state quarterfinals.

That happened Tuesday, and the No. 2 state-ranked team gave the top-ranked Lady Raiders a scare on their home courts, but Walton ultimately perservered to win a 3-1 decision over the previously undefeated Lady Lions.

The victory improved Walton's winning streak to 131 straight matches and brought it within four wins of setting the all-sport state record for consecutive wins. The Taylor County girls basketball team won 134 straight games from 1968-72.

Any hopes of reaching that record will have to wait until next season, however. Even if Walton (15-0) can win twice and clinch a seventh straight state title in Saturday's final four in Jonesboro, the Lady Raiders will end the season with 133 straight wins.

Walton will play a morning semifinal against Greenbrier, with the winner advancing to face either Tift County or Region 6AAAAA nemesis Centennial.

To clinch their spot in Jonesboro, Walton simply outmatched Peachtree Ridge (15-1) in doubles play Tuesday.

Amelia McIssac and Claire Marshall won 6-2, 6-0 at No. 1, and Marissa Pulido and Kayla Brady were leading 6-1, 4-0 at No. 2 before the match was called. But all three singles matches could have gone either way, and Walton needed to win at least one to be assured a victory.

The Lady Raiders ended up getting two victories at singles. Stephanie Falcon defeated Abigail Owens 7-6 (3), 6-2 at No. 3, and Emily Zabor survived a tough three-set battle to edge Peachtree Ridge star Mary Jeremiah 6-3, 3-6, 6-4 for the clinching point at No. 1.

Jessica Northcutt beat Walton's Maxie Weinberg 7-5, 7-6 for Peachtree Ridge's only point at No. 2 singles.

"We knew it was going to be tough," Walton coach Roberta Manheim said. "We knew how strong they were, but once again, our girls rose to the challenge."

While Walton was quickly taking care of business at No. 1 doubles, there were plenty of intrigue in the first sets of all three singles matches. Zabor won hers 6-3, knowing Jeremiah still had plenty of fight left. Weinberg lost her opener 7-5 after leading 4-2, and Falcon finally prevailed in a tiebreaker after losing a 5-4, 30-0 lead on serve.

It turns out that Falcon's win at No. 3 was the turning point. Falcon said it took Manheim's advice after Owens rallied to take a 6-5 lead in the first set, and that was to play to Owens' forehand and attack her backhand.

Despite cramping up in the second set, Falcon's strategy paid off. She never once lost her patience and concentration, Owens started making more unforced errors, and Falcon gave Walton the singles win it needed.

"I am so happy," Falcon said after winning her match. "I had to pull this one out because I knew that No. 1 and No. 2 singles were going to be tough."

At No. 1, Zabor and Jeremiah had difficulty holding their serve during the first two sets - both players returned serve exceptionally well - and ended up splitting them 6-3.

Zabor gained momentum in the first game of the third set when she broke Jeremiah at love and held her serve during the critical times. She fired an ace at 40-15 to take a 5-3 lead, and she held serve at love to win 6-4.

"I was able to pick my spots (while serving) and make good shots afterwards," Zabor said.
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