By Melissa Blankenship
The state tennis championships started with 32 teams, but only one of them could be crowned champion. On May 6, 2017 both Bleckley County girls and boys tennis teams won the State Championship. No other tennis team from Bleckley County has ever achieved this goal.
After the first round of the state championships 16 teams were left, and Bleckley was one of them having easily defeated Fitzgerald . In the third round of the championship Bleckley boys and girls handily defeated Coosa boys and girls, and now there were only eight teams left to vie for the state title. In the third round of state the Bleckley girls team defeated Davidson fine Arts 3-0. The Bleckley boys team defeated Screven county 3-0, and there were four teams left in the state tournament.
The fourth round of state, the semi-final round, was tough for Bleckley. The Bleckley girls played Berrien County and fought to cling to second set leads in their No. 2 and 3 singles matches after easily taking the No. 1 singles and doubles matches. No. 2 doubles struggled, narrowly hanging on to the first set and only winning the second after a tough scrap. The boys also struggled in the final four round. They lost No. 1 and 2 singles matches to a superior Thomasville line-up, but evened the tournament at 2-2 with easy wins at no.1 and 2 doubles. An arduous match at no. 3 singles ended after at least 3 hours of play with Bleckley’s Bronson Sanders taking the win. Now there were two teams left in the state tournament. Click here for the whole story!
The final round of state was played on Saturday May 6 beneath a brilliant blue sky. The air was cool and the breeze stiff at times as the players took the courts around 10:15 am on Saturday morning. The girls played Screven county. No. 1 singles player, Abbey Sims, and No. 2 singles player, Hanna Dykes, quickly defeated their opponents 6-3, 6-1 and 6-2, 6-1 respectively. Coach Sanders had reluctantly pulled an injured Jordan Williams from his No. 1 doubles team at the last minute, but was confident that Sophomore Bailey Odom would rise to the occasion, which she did. She and veteran doubles player Regan Cole clinched the state championship for the girls with a 6-1, 6-1 victory.
Meanwhile, the action continued on the boys courts. No. 1 singles Harsh Patel was moved mid-match to a new court after the net broke on his court, but that didn’t deter him, and he soundly defeated his opponent, 6-2, 6-1. Then No. 1 doubles Will Collins and Dayton Cannon finished out their match 7-6, 6-3, despite the fact that Collins had been ill leading into the match. While the momentum in the No.2 singles and doubles matches began to swing in favor of the opponents, Bronson Sanders began to warm up for what would be the championship determining match. His experience against Thomasville served him well, and he defeated his opponent 6-0, 6-1 to bring home the state championship.
Now there is one. Bleckley County has proven what those of us who have followed Bleckley tennis through the years have known. BCHS has the #1 tennis team in the state! As Coach Sanders said to the crowd in front of the court house, “After 26 years, it’s the best I can do.”
Thanks to Greg Collins, Pamela Williams, and Eima Sims for sharing their photos!