Saturday June 3rd, 2023 4:39AM

STATE FINALS PREVIEW: Lady Trojans look to make the most of 1st-ever trip to tennis finals

By Jeff Hart Sports Reporter

ROME, Ga. — Last week the North Hall girls tennis team knocked off Holy Innocents’ in the Class 4A semifinals to reach their first-ever berth in a state title match.

After several trips to the semifinals over the years, the victory represented uncharted territory for the program. It gave longtime coach Bob Woodworth a chance to breathe a sigh of relief knowing a huge hurdle had finally been cleared.

“It’s great to finally break through,” Woodworth said. “The teams have been to the semis a number of times but this year they broke through so it is an important progression.”

However, the prize for their breakthrough is getting three-time defending state champion Pace Academy in the finals. The Lady Knights won the last two Class 2A titles after winning the Class 3A in 2019.

The championship match is scheduled to begin at 9 a.m. at the Rome Tennis Center on Saturday morning.

But Woodworth’s current group of overachievers don’t seem the kind to be phased by the obvious challenge. Ella Kate Canaday, Region 8-4A Player of the Year Gabbie Jenkins, and Lilly Perry have anchored a solid singles group. Perry clinched the back-and-forth 3-2 win over Holy Innocents’ at No. 3 singles.

The doubles team of Riley Morgan/Maggie Perry and Callie Clark/Kate Rogers have been steady throughout.

“We have our work cut out for us," Woodworth said. "They are deeper than we are and they have very skilled players at every position. Our players will have to overachieve – again."

However, few probably gave them a chance to beat Holy Innocents’, a semifinalist in a brutal 2022 Class A Private playoffs. Woodworth said they are taking a somewhat relaxed approach as they try to serve up their first-ever state title.

“We’ll be on the same court with (Pace) so we will absolutely have a chance,” he said. "The pressure is on (Pace). We will have fun and get better no matter what.”

But no matter what, so will the way outsiders view the program.

“The attention and notoriety is likely to heighten expectations for future years,” Woodworth said.

We’ll see just how much after Saturday.

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