In its quest for the Class AAAA state crown, the Carrollton High School boys' tennis team wasted little time clearing the first of five hurdles, mowing down Madison County in a 3-0 decision at Sunset Hills Country Club on Monday afternoon.
The Trojans, who reached the state quarterfinals last spring and fell in a 3-2 heartbreaker to eventual state champion Marist, have been on a mission ever since that setback and head coach Ryan Scroggin said this is the time of the year they've all been waiting for since the start of the 2016 campaign.
And on Monday, it was simply a matter of taking care of business for the No. 1 seed.
"They looked pretty sharp [Monday]. They came out and got the job done. We were in and out of here in 45 minutes," Scroggin said. "It'll get tougher as we go through the state rounds, but a good match for us. We played well at all lines. The kids know that it gets tougher and tougher, but the kids are very hungry to get a state championship and we've got a good shot if we play to our potential."
Carrollton received a 6-0, 6-0 win from Carver Arant at No. 1 singles on Monday, while No. 2 Kane Caldwell added a 6-0, 6-1 victory and the pairing of Ross Martin and Samuel Campbell at No. 1 doubles recorded a 6-0, 6-2 win to seal the deal.
The Trojans were also cruising on the other two lines — Connor Best was leading 6-1, 4-0 at No. 3 singles and Jon-Jon Richards/Ben Nixon were ahead 6-2, 2-1 at No. 2 doubles — but they were pulled when the third victory was secured.
Carrollton will face the winner between No. 2 Cook/No. 3 Eastside in the second round, which could come as early as the end of the week. The match has to be played by next Tuesday, and Scroggin would rather get to it sooner than later.
"I'm not sure when they're playing. I tried to contact the coaches [Monday], but I didn't hear anything. That [second] round has to be played by Tuesday of next week because this window has to be played by Thursday. We went ahead and got our match taken care of," Scroggin said. "So we'll practice a few days and hopefully we may get the match in this week, but if not it'll have to be played by Tuesday of next week."
Looming in the quarterfinals is a potential date with second-seeded St. Pius X, which would likely face No. 1 West Laurens in the second round, and Scroggin said if that's the case it'll make for some quality competition.
"We played them early in the year and were successful against them, but they've had a lot of time to get better," Scroggin said. "I know if we get that far, they'll give us a tough match."
Of course, the team with the bulls-eye on its back, especially for the guys in Black and Gold, is two-time defending state champion Marist.
The War Eagles are on the other side of the bracket, meaning the Trojans would only face them in a state championship showdown, which very well could happen.
And while you never want to look too far ahead, Carrollton understands that the goal is to win it all and it'll be ready for whoever stands in its way to get there.
"We were right there last year. Even though the kids this year are playing in different spots, it's still the same group of kids and they do remember," Scroggin said.
Story by Corey Cusick
Reprinted from Times-Georgian