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May 5, 2014

Rebelettes again one step from state finals

TIFTON — The Berrien Rebelettes could get used to this. Another tennis season has reached the state semifinals and head coach Jarrett Luke's team is not only still alive, but set to host the round yet again this afternoon. They play Wesleyan at Heritage Park at 2 p.m.

The semifinal opposition's name and location is similar to a year ago. Wesleyan is coming to Nashville; Westminster came in 2013. Both are private institutions. Westminster was an Atlanta school. The Lady Wolves are close to it.

They hail from extreme west Gwinnett County. Their section, Peachtree Corners, is peppered with streets with names like Technology Parkway and Data Drive and a town center called The Forum, which is home to more than 50 shops and is surrounded by three stoplights.

Most of the Lady Wolves' opponents also hail from metro Atlanta, but they are not strangers to small towns. They have recently been to Bremen and Washington, but in comparison to the trip they make today, those are merely a stone's throw. Berrien is 200 miles away. Until a few years ago, the entire county had three stoplights. There are four now.

Luke said he hopes the distance wears them down a bit. He likes the opportunity to play schools like Wesleyan, Westminster and St. Vincent's, who they knocked off in the quarterfinals in Savannah.

"To be able to play private schools is big for our program," he said.

Wesleyan is 18-5, their losses coming to Mill Creek, Johns Creek, Chattahoochee, Westminster and Lovett. They were able to cancel out the Lovett loss with a win last week.

The Rebelettes are 21-2. The 21 wins breaks the school record of 20, set last year. Their losses were against Brookstone, a private school from Columbus, and Thomasville in the region championship. Thomasville is still alive, too, having beaten Screven County. They will be facing Westminster in the other semifinal.

For the second straight year, the Rebelettes were hit with a rain delay in the quarterfinals and for the second straight year, they rose to the occasion.

Lauren Harrell and Courtney Kegley, the No. 2 doubles, gave the team their first lead with a 6-0, 6-2 victory. Then Logan Griffis at No. 3 singles won 6-2, 3-6, 6-2.

With those two out of the way, all Berrien needed was a single win to clinch. That came shortly when Hana Gaskins and Skyla Heath won 6-7, 6-1 and 7-5. Luke said he decided then to pull the rest of his team from their matches.

At that time, Lollie McMillan and Madison Heath were slightly behind in their matches. Both were winnable, he said, but he opted not to take any chances.

Berrien started out the playoffs with a 4-1 win over Westside of Augusta, followed by a 4-1 victory over Bleckley County. Bleckley was the team's opponent in last year's quarterfinals. Against them this year, he said, it was McMillan and Madison Heath, who put the team on good footing.

Not only team records have been set this year, but individual ones, Luke said. McMillan has 69 individual wins for her career, setting a school mark. She has 19 wins on the year. Griffis has 17 and Madison Heath 16. Harrell is 22-1 in doubles, having been teamed with both Kegley and Daryl Ann Boyd. The combo Gaskins and Skyla Heath are also 22-1.

"I'm real proud of the school support," said Luke. This is his fourth personal trip this far, having previously taken the team there in 2001, 2003 and 2013. A win would put them in their first state final, which would be played Saturday at Clayton County International Park.

 

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