Wednesday June 3rd, 2015 1:47PM

Tennis: Gainesville girls muster thrilling comeback to march into quarterfinals

By Morgan Lee Sports Editor
Related Articles
GAINESVILLE -- Katherine Wright felt the crowd growing around her, heard the cheers getting louder, and then she realized -- "I knew it was up to me again," the Gainesville girls tennis standout said.

With a quarterfinal berth hanging on the line, the Lady Red Elephants could hardly have scripted a better option.

After clinching region titles with her play the last two seasons, Wright showed she was up to the task at the state level on Monday, claiming a three-set victory to seal a spot in the third round of the postseason and cap a stirring comeback that saw Gainesville down 0-2 before ripping off two doubles victories and Wright's thriller for a 3-2 triumph over Sequoyah.

"I should be getting used to this by now," said Wright, who defeated Morgan Dodd 6-3, 5-7, 6-3 to help Gainesville's girls to their first quarterfinal berth since 2005. "Sometimes I have a hard time focusing in close matches like this."

You would never have known by her third set performance on Monday -- though the second set played a big part in her determination after Wright watched a 5-1 lead evaporate with six straight game setbacks.

"I knew once she dropped that second set it would make her mad and stir her up," Gainesville girls coach Kellie Smith said. "I had confidence she would do it."

Wright stormed to the victory, breaking Dodd's serve early and then holding serve in a marathon sixth game in the third set, facing down six deuce points before pulling ahead 4-2. Wright then broke serve again to move in front 5-2 before notching the 6-3 win.

"I had to turn it on because she (Dodd) was good; her serve was amazing," Wright said. "I just knew I had to keep getting the ball back in play and keep it deep."

The Lady Red Elephants looked in deep trouble early, falling behind 2-0 out of the gate with a 6-1, 6-0 loss at No. 1 singles -- Sequoyah's Taylor Dodd winning -- and 6-0, 6-0 at No. 3 singles -- Sequoyah's Montana Gilbert prevailing.

Gainesville was not about to give in, however, and the fightback started on the doubles court.

Haley Frankum and Josie Evert earned the Lady Red Elephants' first point, taking a 6-4, 6-4 victory at No. 2 doubles.

Minutes later, the No. 1 team of Morgan Mercer and Suzanne Smith leveled the match at 2-2 with a gripping, 7-6 (8-6), 6-4 victory.

"I give all of this to our doubles teams," Wright said. "They've played so hard, and any one of us could have won this for us today."

And it's a group that will keep playing, moving on to face Cambridge in the third round of the Class AAAAA bracket, match time to be determined.

Perhaps the best news for the Lady Red Elephants is that Cambridge is a No. 2 seed, meaning top-seeded Gainesville will get to host the next round at Longwood Park -- meaning that coach Smith may get a chance to see it in person.

Smith is nine months pregnant, and Monday's match came on her due date.

"My main goal was to get a chance to play here; I may have still have a chance to see it," Smith said.

Getting a chance to watch the players she has helped foster for many years will prove a powerful draw for the coach.

"This is a group (the seniors) I started with when they were eighth graders, and they mean so much to me," Smith said. "They have worked so hard and they know what competition is."

They certainly showed as much on Monday.
© Copyright 2015
All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed without permission.
2014 Top 10: Looking back at the top sports stories of the year
It was another year for the record books in 2014, mostly for the right reasons -- state championships, new challenges and new stars taking their turn to shine. But there were also plenty of big stories that reminded us that sports -- like life -- isn
11:55PM ( 5 months ago )
NASCAR K&N Pro Series schedules set for 2015
DAYTONA BEACH, FL - NASCAR announced recently the 2015 schedules for its top developmental regional touring series, the NASCAR K&N Pro Series East and NASCAR K&N Pro Series West.
2:00PM ( 5 months ago )
Lanierland boys final: Johnson makes history with win over Red Elephants <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Ever the aggressor on the court, Johnson
8:55AM ( 5 months ago )
Lanierland boys semifinals: Unbeatens Johnson, Red Elephants roll into finals
Both Gainesville and Johnson powered their way into the Lanierland Tournament finals on Monday. The two undefeated teams will meet Tuesday for the title at 8:30 p.m. at Chestatee.
10:01AM ( 5 months ago )
Lanierland girls semifinals: GHS, Lady Falcons advance to finals <b> (VIDEO) </b>
Flowery Branch and Gainesville each took impressive wins Monday to advance to the Lanierland Tournament finals...
10:00AM ( 5 months ago )
Girls basketball: Lady Tigers advance to Pickens Holiday finals
The Dawson County girls basketball advanced to the finals of the Pickens Holiday Classic after an 81-54 win over Riverwood Monday.
11:48PM ( 5 months ago )
High School Sports
Falcons try to move on after Shembo arrested for dog killing
New coach Dan Quinn believes the Atlanta Falcons made the right decision to cut ties immediately with Prince Shembo after the linebacker was arrested last week for killing a dog.
12:16PM ( 1 hour ago )
Richt hopes for 'discretion' in new SEC transfer rule
Georgia coach Mark Richt hopes there is room for "discretion" in the SEC's new rule which blocks schools from accepting transfers who have had "serious misconduct" problems.
10:12AM ( 3 hours ago )
Miller has worst start of season, Braves lose on late HR
Shelby Miller says every pitcher has a bad day. He finally had his first of the season on Tuesday night.
8:04AM ( 5 hours ago )
Video: Johnson, Buescher, Reddick win at the 'Monster Mile'
While several drivers and teams are now breathing a sigh of relief having escaped the “Monster Mile” at Dover International Speedway in Dover, Del., others felt cursed by their bad luck – or perhaps at some aggressive driving on another driver's part.
8:00AM ( 5 hours ago )
Georgia men's golf surge for championship falls in semifinals
The Georgia men’s golf team’s memorable run at the NCAA Championships came to an end on Tuesday in the match play semifinals at Concession Golf Club.
By UGA Sports Communications
10:00PM ( 15 hours ago )