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TENNIS: Eastside girls qualify to state with region runner-up finish
Eastside's Venham defeats Ansley Carpenter in first set
Eastside Tennis
The Eastside girls tennis team celebrates its second place finish in the Region 4-AAAA tournament Thursday at Woodward Academy. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

COLLEGE PARK, Ga. — While the Eastside girls tennis team couldn’t crack the Woodward Academy code for a Region 4-AAAA championship Thursday afternoon, Eastside’s Abbey Grace Venham did get a little redemption. 

Venham played No. 1 singles for Eastside and faced a familiar foe in Woodward Academy’s Ansley Carpenter Thursday, and when she did, Venham did what she couldn’t do against Carpenter a couple of weeks ago — she defeated her. 

Venham came out aggressively in taking the first set the pair played 6-1. Carpenter bounced back in the second set, leading 5-4 before the action was stopped due to Woodward capturing the region championship due to picking up wins in various other singles and doubles matches across the Woodward Academy tennis complex. 

It was a much different result than when she lost to Carpenter 6-1 and 6-3 during Venham’s first USTA action in two years.

Abbey Grace Venham
Eastside's Abbey Grace Venham defeated Woodward No. 1 singles player Ansley Carpenter 6-1 in the pair's first set. Venham was trailing 5-4 before in the second set before it was called, keeping her undefeated in high school match play. -photo by Gabriel Stovall

“Last time she played really good, and she even told me she was having trouble with her ankle so she wasn’t at her peak today,” Venham said. “But I came in a lot more confident and a lot more motivated because I had my team here to support me, and they were all like hyping me up for the match and stuff like that. But at USTA I was kinda dreading it because I knew how good she was.”

Beyond the morale boost garnered from her cheering teammates, Venham said she just felt better in general about this matchup with Carpenter. The familiarity she had with the Woodward sophomore also helped her feel more relaxed. 

“I was super confident after I won the first set, and then I started to slack off and I guess lose my head a bit,” Venham said. “(Carpenter) definitely cranked it up on me. She didn’t want to lose that next set. It was pretty crazy, but we fought as hard as we could today.” 

Eastside’s girls finished with a region runner-up trophy, while the Lady War Eagles claimed their fifth straight region crown. But Venham’s vindication in her match with Carpenter and Eastside’s predominantly strong showing even in defeat is probably why she, along with her teammates, had smiles a mile wide while grasping the second place hardware. 

Because of that second place finish, Eastside will host in the first round of the Class AAAA state tournament. 

“I think that’s awesome, and I think everybody on the team worked as hard as they could,” Venham said. “Even the people who didn’t play. They were all so supportive. We all did our very best in this heat, and it’s super exciting to finish second.”