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Lady Mustangs looking to leap quarterfinals hurdle
South Effingham’s No. 2 doubles team of Katherine Perrin, left, and Ciara Knowles will return for the Lady Mustangs next year. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

For five straight years, the South Effingham Lady Mustangs tennis team has reached the state quarterfinals. For five straight years, that’s where their season has ended.

The 3-1 loss to Columbus on Friday brought the campaign to a close for the Region 3-AAA champions, but coach Christi Wood was more upbeat about the way things ended.

Wood has to replace two of her top three singles players, but both doubles teams will return and No. 2 singles player Jessie Kessler was only a freshman.

“We have a good mix,” Wood said. “I’m pretty excited about next year.”

Megan Dunbar, who played No. 1 singles, and third seed Katie Tanner are graduating. The doubles teams of Cassie Hiatt and Allison Williford and Ciara Knowles and Katherine Perrin will be returning.

But what Wood especially liked from her team Friday was the way they played, specifically, how hard they competed. In previous years, the state quarterfinals coincided with prom. Wood believes that caused her players to lose focus on the task at hand.

“Playing against the prom, that’s tough,” she said. “There have been times when they have gotten to this point and they laid down and died. This time, they wanted to win.”

This time, they ran into a Lady Blue Devils buzzsaw, led by top seed Sarah Cassman.

Cassman, who will play tennis at the Air Force Academy, dispatched Dunbar 6-0, 6-0. Columbus took all three singles matches, and Knowles and Perrin won their doubles match. Hiatt and Williford were tied a set apiece with Columbus’ Jienna Hackaday and Katie Bishop and trailed in the third set when the match was called.

“Those two are so scrappy,” Wood said of her top doubles team, “I think they would have beaten them.”