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State Championship Bound! Boys Tennis Defeats Pace Academy to Advance to State Finals

ATLANTA – There were maybe 200 people crowded around the tennis courts at Pace Academy, watching the nail-biting drama that unfolded late Wednesday afternoon.

FPD’s sideline – a mix of parents, players and a couple of frazzled coaches – was practically unhinged with stress.

About the only person who wasn’t rattled was the only one who mattered at that moment: lightweight lefty freshman Miller Durham.

After splitting sets in the deciding match of the afternoon, the one that would determine which team went to the state championship and which team’s season would end, Durham sat alone on his bench with a solitary thought.

“I was just telling myself to keep the ball in play,” he said.

Durham did, outlasting Pace’s Daniel Gray in the decisive third set to clinch the Vikings’ 3-2 win and secure an appearance in Saturday’s GHSA Class A state championship match against The Walker School.

The match will be played at 9 a.m. at the Clayton County International Park in Jonesboro.

“A typical kid would be really nervous,” FPD coach Derek Lashley said. “He kept smiling, kept saying ‘I got this.’ I don’t know if that’s his personality, his demeanor or what, but he knew he was going to take care of business and he did.”

Durham’s calm approach was evident throughout the match, as dozens of Pace fans lined the court, loudly offering their support for the home team.

“There were a couple hundred people pulling against me, but I just had to block out the noise,” Durham said. “You have to stay focused on what you’re doing.”

Durham’s wild 6-4, 3-6, 6-4 win was the clincher, but the Vikings also claimed wins at the other two singles spots. Senior Clemson signee Daniel Strawn and Durham’s brother Michael coasted to victory to set up Miller’s stirring finale.

The Vikings (21-0) dropped both doubles matches in tightly-contested finishes, and Durham knew the stakes by the time he finished his first set.

“I was cautiously optimistic (entering Durham’s third set),” Lashley said. “All three of our singles guys really haven’t faced any adversity all year. That’s why we had a hard schedule because I wanted them to play for this kind of moment.”

Gray double faulted on match point to seal the win for Durham, who was promptly mobbed by his teammates and lifted on their shoulders.

“You couldn’t tell that he had won the match,” Lashley said of Durham’s reaction. “Everybody else was jumping all over him and he was like ‘OK.’ I’m glad it came down to him. He’s just so cool under pressure.”

The Vikings will now look to claim the school’s first boys tennis state championship Saturday against the Wolverines from Marietta.

“This is the best team in the history of FPD tennis and I want these boys to embrace what they’ve done,” Lashley said. “But I didn’t get two steps off the court before I started thinking about Walker.”

 

At Pace Academy

GHSA Class A boys tennis state semifinals

FPD 3, Pace 2

Singles

Daniel Strawn def. Zelner 6-4, 6-0

Michael Durham def. Kumar 6-2, 6-4

Miller Durham def. Gray 6-4, 3-6, 6-4

Doubles

Kimmel/Reckford def. Dylan Liles/Max Chandler 6-2, 7-5

Martos/Seaman def. Brooks Hanson/Tristan Hilyer 6-3, 7-5

Next: Saturday: FPD vs. The Walker School, Saturday, 9 a.m., Clayton County International Park, Jonesboro

fpd tennis crop

The First Presbyterian Day School Department of Athletics, home to multiple region and state championships in both the GISA and GHSA, strives to build the student athlete both in the playing arena and the classroom while continuing to educate and equip students to change the world for God’s glory. Now a member of the GHSA, the Vikings have continued to provide FPD athletes, coaches, fans and spectators a positive, Christian environment on a daily basis. For more information, visit www.fpdvikings.com and sign up for up-to-the-minute news and scores by visiting www.twitter.com/FPDVikingSports.