DALTON, Ga. -- By winning in the Region 7-AAA semifinals Thursday morning, the Heritage boys' tennis team was able to clear what had been its biggest hurdle. It might take another year or two to make that final jump.
The Generals defeated Cartersville but fell 4-1 to Allatoona in the championship match at Lakeshore Park. Still, they will host a first-round playoff match for the first time in school history next week.
Dalton claimed third in both the girls' and boys' tournaments, with the Catamounts (13-8) defeating Cartersville 3-2 and the girls beating LaFayette 3-0. Allatoona beat Cartersville 4-1 in the girls' final.
Winning a semifinal match against Cartersville -- which defeated them in the previous two semifinals -- was huge for the Generals (12-2) and coach Darren Miller. The match came down to No. 1 doubles, with Brysen Owen and Matthew Williams getting a service break tied at 4 and serving out the match the next game.
"That was big," Miller said. "That had been a big hurdle for us to leap Cartersville, since they'd beat us the past two seasons. It was special to get that win, but I almost think there was a little letdown because of the delay between matches and the fact that Dalton lost to Allatoona in the semifinals.
"The guys wanted to play Dalton."
The Catamounts' match came down to No. 3 singles. Will Alderman fell behind 5-0 in the final set, only to win the next six games and close within two points of victory. His opponent, Andrew Ellingson, held serve and earned a big point at 5-all in the tiebreaker before Alderman double-faulted on match point.
Alderman came back to defeat his Cartersville opponent 6-1, 6-0 in the consolation match.
"We're disappointed, but as I've heard a lot this week, it is what it is," said Dalton coach David Hilley, who got his 250th career match win Wednesday. "We're going to be a good 3 seed, so whoever we're going to play in the state playoffs better be ready."
Hilley was just as pleased with his Lady Catamounts, who improved to 10-10 with a pair of wild victories. Their quarterfinal match against Murray County, which started late Wednesday, was halted when the lights went off at Lakeshore Park. At the time, the match was tied 2-2 and Dalton No. 3 singles player Anna Grace Wilson was two points from victory.
The match resumed at 8:30 Thursday morning, and Wilson promptly claimed the final two points. Dalton fell in the semifinals before defeating LaFayette.
"I never thought we'd be a 3 seed," Hilley said. "At one point I didn't think my girls would even advance to state. They've exceeded my expectations. This has turned into a fine season."