High schools around the area recently competed in the first region tennis tournaments in two years, and several local teams dominated their competition.
Some schools kept up historic trends, while others started a new chapter in school history.
Athens Academy hosted the Region 8-A-Private tournament, and its boys team won the region for the 34th consecutive year. The streak started in 1987, and head coach Jami Cashin has presided over the last seven.
The Spartans were able to defeat George Walton Academy in the final round of their region, but the Lady Spartans fell to GWA in the first round. The Lady Spartans then fell to Tallulah Falls but earned the fourth place and a spot in the state playoff bracket.
The Spartans are primed for a deep playoff run. The boys hosted and defeated Galloway 3-2 this past Monday in the first round of the playoffs and the girls faced Wesleyan on Tuesday. Cashin said that her boys have only gotten better since they won the Jekyll Island Tournament earlier this year.
“The guys are just really playing together as a team,” Cashin said. “It's a very much a team competition. No one is out there just for their own sake. They really have come together and know that every single line matters. They're just really working harder in practice to boost each other up, and that was just a great bonding weekend for the team.”
Prince Avenue Christian School also did well in the Region 8-A-Private tournament. The boys placed third in their first-ever region tournament after a 3-2 win over Athens Christian School, and the Lady Wolverines placed second after defeating Athens Academy in the first round.
The Lady Wolverines fell to George Walton in the final round 3-2 but will host the first round of playoffs for the first time in program history. Mount Vernon will come to Prince to play the girls team, and the boys team will travel to Holy Innocents’.
The Prince football players continue to have an impact on the tennis teams.
“Those guys know how to have a winning mentality before they even walk on the court,” Wolverines head coach Elizabeth Sadler said. “Just going for every ball, they run down shots like nobody I've ever seen. I think that's one of the things, particularly with Joe Conner, that frustrates his opponents because he just gets to every ball. He had it in his head that he's going to get to every ball.”
Both public schools, Oconee County High School and North Oconee High School, swept their region tournaments without dropping a line to an opponent.
The Lady Warriors defeated Stephens County and the Warriors defeated Hart County, both 3-0 in the Region 8-AAA tournament. The Lady Warriors have lots of young talent that stepped up all year and will be relied upon more as the postseason plays out. The boys play so often on their own that they essentially practice themselves, according to head coach Derek Hon.
North Oconee faced Flowery Branch in both boys and girls final rounds of the Region 8-AAAA tournament. The Titans won both matches 3-0, although coach Walker Daniel would have liked to see the end of some of his player’s matches.
Both the Warriors and Titans received a first-round bye for the state tournament because some regions did not have enough for four playoff teams. They will use the extra time to practice and prepare for the second round.
The postseason is finally here, but teams have not crossed the finish line yet.
“Win or lose, you feel a lot better about it if you were at a hundred percent and just got beat,” Daniel said. “The last thing anybody wants is to get knocked out of the tournament because they had kids that couldn’t play.”