Wildcats blanked in final after rousing win

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Marshall Paulk's win helped Westminster reach the finals, but the Wildcats were shut out by Stratford in the title match.  SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
SARA CALDWELL/STAFF
Marshall Paulk's win helped Westminster reach the finals, but the Wildcats were shut out by Stratford in the title match.
Wayne Staats
High School Reporter
Twitter: @WStaats8
E-mail | 706-823-3425

The season ended in defeat, but Marshall Paulk will remember the comeback he used to clinch Westminster’s spot in the final two.

Even so, following a close win in the semifinals, the Wildcats boys tennis team lost to Stratford Academy, 5-0, in the GISA Class AAA boys state team finals Wednesday at Newman Tennis Center. It was Westminster’s first appearance in the state championship round since 2007.

“It’s a great accomplishment,” Westminster coach Leisa Tebbs said. “It’s a goal I’ve been working on since 2007.”

Though Stratford swept all the sets in the championship match, Westminster pulled out a thriller just to get to the final.

With the team score 2-2 against The Weber School, the outcome depended on Paulk’s result.

Paulk first rallied from a loss in the first set by taking the second. He then carried momentum into the third, going up 5-2.

He lost the next game, but he served for the match up 5-3. Paulk had limited trouble in finishing the clincher, hitting a shot near the line to push his team to the final.

“I just try to block it out,” Paulk said about the attention and pressure. “Every good shot, I pump myself up.”

Paulk was also the last one playing in the final – he fought cramps in a 7-5, 6-0 loss – but his performance wouldn’t change the team’s hopes.

Stratford took wins in all the showdowns, including a 6-1, 6-1 showing at No. 1 singles.

The result leaves Stratford as the top team in the state for the fourth time in the past five seasons.

“It always feels good to win a state championship,” Stratford coach Jaime Kaplan said.

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