Ben (Walters) was up 5-0 at one point, and as soon as I finished my match, I ran over to cheer him on. He scared me near the end because he had gotten forced to a tiebreaker, but he came away with the win at the end.”
Walters’ triumph sealed the championship for the Peachtree boys, and made Lawson Van Ness out to be a bit of a prophet.
“I told Ben before the match, ‘it’s all gonna come down to you, so you’ve gotta make sure you’re head’s screwed on right,’” Lawson Van Ness said. And he made it. He pulled it out, and it was so cool to see that it was exactly how I thought it would be.”
Johnson said she also had a good feeling ahead of time that her squad would come away hoisting championship hardware.
“I don’t think there was a time this season that we didn’t think we’d make it here,” she said. “I knew when we got to state and went through our bye match and quarterfinals. I knew right then it was going to happen. We were telling each other that we’re gonna beat Unity and we’re gonna win state.”
That confident spirit was born out of the way the team competed with each other in practice throughout the season, according to coach Van Ness.
“The biggest thing, I think, for the girls was just the way they were challenging each other in practice,” he said. “It’s not always easy playing against friends. It could be difficult, but for these girls, it made it fun. I told them straight out, my best players will play. You can be best friends off the court, and we’ll leave as Peachtree Panthers, but on the court, you play to win. That’s whether you’re in practice or in a match. And they did that very well, and it paid off.”
For the boys, it was a matter of coach Van Ness seeing how the brackets were shaping up, and how that coincided with the fact that his boys were playing their best tennis of the season.
“I knew with my boys I had solid one and two singles, but we needed a third singles player to step up,” he said. “They were able to do that. Then when we got into the playoffs and saw how things were happening, I told those guys, ‘You have a chance now to win state.’ It was always an expectation for us to get there, but we didn’t know realistically if we could make it there. But after the way we competed in the regular season, all of a sudden, we had a legit chance to do it, and they got the job done.
“I couldn’t be more proud of the job they did staying focused. It truly payed off for them.”