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South Effingham tennis teams still alive
South Effingham's Hanna Sowers hits a forehand during an April 2 match against Effingham County. - photo by Mark Lastinger/staff

The South Effingham girls tennis team is cruising through the Class AAAAA playoffs.

The Lady Mustangs went 5-0 in their first two matches against Fayette County and Jones County, making it the third consecutive season the team has made it to the Elite 8.

South Effingham coach Kristen Finlen said it's been a culmination of persistent play and good decision making that has allowed the girls to be successful.

"Our girls are playing well and very consistent," Finlen said. "They are playing very smart right now and they've been focused on playing their matches and doing what we've practiced."

Next up, the Lady Mustangs could see a rematch against Buford or they could play host to Carrollton. Either way, the team is ecstatic to still be playing.

"They went on the court and stayed focused the whole time and kept their game plan," Finlen said. "It's a great feeling. We are really excited. 

“They worked hard to get there."

Although it’s been the Lady Mustangs beating their opponents with ease, South Effingham’s boys are still alive, too, after beating Union Grove in the second round on Monday. They stole the show in a three-hour battle in the first round against Starr's Mill.

South Effingham upset the No. 2 seed on the road and it all came down to No. 3 singles player Hunter Wainright, who was the last man standing in what turned out to be an epic showdown.

"I was nervous but I told myself if I lose I know I tried my best," Wainright said.

The No. 1 singles and No. 1 doubles players fell in their matches but Miguel Rodriquez and Isiah Scott (No. 2 doubles) and No. 2 singles player Reese Allen kept the Mustangs in it. Tied 2-2 it was up to Wainright to come through. 

Although he found himself in a similar battle against Effingham County earlier this season, this matchup had a lot more on the line.  

"It came down to our No. 2 doubles winning, then our No. 2 singles winning and it kind of set me up to be in the last match to decide the game," Wainright said. "The kid I played was good. I had to move him around a lot. He had a really good forehand."

With his back against the wall, Wainright fought through the jitters to clinch the 3-2 win. Coming into the match, the Mustangs weren't sure what to expect but they were determined to duke it out as long as they needed to in order to secure a spot in the Sweet 16.

"It felt awesome," Wainright said. "(My teammates) doused with me water a little bit. We didn’t know anything (about Starr's Mill) because we didn’t know how good they were going to be.

“We just went in there with a positive mindset just knowing we were going to do our best."

"I just told him to stay focused and play hard," Finlen said. "He went out there and took care of business."

Finlen was proud of the way her entire team stood tall in the thick of things.

"They've worked very hard and practiced hard," she said. "They played phenomenal."