VALDOSTA -- Berrien High girls' tennis head coach Jarrett Luke probably didn't mean to put all the pressure on his No. 2 doubles team Saturday in the finals of the Wildcat Invitational.
But that's exactly what he did with the Lady Rebels tied with Valdosta High 2-2 headed into the final game of the day at McKey Park.
"I went over and told them, the match is going to come down to ya'll," Luke said. "They just kept hanging in and they fought hard to the end."
Berrien's No. 2 doubles tandem of Jackla Dean and Stephanie Perry came through after losing the first set, 6-2, to Valdosta's Carly Davis and Jordan Thomas. Dean and Perry rebounded to win the next two sets, 6-0, 6-2, giving Berrien the girls' title at the Wildcat Invitational, 3-2, over the Lady Wildcats.
Berrien (5-0), winners of five of the last six Region 1-AA championships, defeated two Class AAAAA schools, Lowndes and Valdosta, en route to the championship.
"I like to play tough competition before we get to the playoffs," said Luke, whose team starts region play Thursday in Nashville against Brooks County. "We've been in big matches, but I knew Valdosta was going to be strong and it was going to be real close.'
Down the road at Valdosta State, Lowndes High (5-0) won the boys' Wildcat Invitational with a tight 3-2 win over Bleckley County. Lowndes downed Ware Magnet, 5-0, to reach the finals.
Against Bleckley, Mike Millner won at No. 1 singles (6-4, 6-2), but after losing at Nos. 2 and 3 singles, the Vikings pulled the win out by sweeping doubles play. No. 1 doubles Dane Boruff and Andrew Smith won 6-2, 6-2, and No. 2 doubles Ben Galloway and Clayton Griffin won 6-1, 6-2.
Lowndes head coach Heath Phelps said Smith had to step up from the junior varsity Friday and Saturday because an injury to a usual starter. Lowndes travels to Colquitt Tuesday and begins Region 1-AAAAA plays Thursday against Valdosta.
Despite the loss to Berrien in the finals, Valdosta High's girls (6-2) placed second by reaching the finals with a 5-0 sweep over Lowndes' girls in the semifinals.
Kristen Tullos defeated Lacey Hansen (4-6, 7-5, 6-3) at No. 1 singles, Priscilla Thomas won at No. 2 singles (6-3, 6-4) over Tayler Jarvis and freshman Jessica Sharp won her first varsity singles match at No. 3 singles with a 4-6, 6-2, 6-2 win over Alison Keener. At No. 1 doubles, Lauren Bahnsen and Delilah Thomas won (6-1, 6-2) over Leah Taylor and Savannah Roberts and Carly Davis and Jordan Thomas won (6-2, 6-4) at No. 2 doubles over Jamie Futch and Lauren Godwin.
"If there's one positive to take out it's our win over Lowndes," Lady Wildcats' head coach Frank Hjort said. "It doesn't count toward the region records, but it's a big confidence booster."
Valdosta's Kristen Tullos went 3-0 over the weekend in singles play as did Bahnsen and Delilah Thomas in doubles play.
Lowndes' girls (3-2) placed third in the Invitational with a 5-0 win over Telfair County. Hansen (6-0, 6-1), Jarvis (6-2, 6-1), and Keener (3-6, 6-4, 6-4) all won in singles play and the duos of Taylor-Roberts (6-1, 6-3) and Futch-Godwin (6-1, 6-2) also won.
Valdosta's boys (6-2) placed third on the Valdosta State courts, with their only loss to second place Bleckley, 4-1. The Wildcats defeated Ware Magnet, 4-1, with No. 1 singles Greg Tullos winning 6-2, 6-1, and No. 3 singles Dylan Tullos winning (6-4, 6-2). No. 2 singles Parker Childree was headed to a straigh set victory when his opponent was forced to retire due to injury. No. 2 doubles Mudit Chowdhary and Ming Lin won 6-2, 6-4.
Valdosta hosts Tift County Tuesday at McKey Park.
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