Driven by last season’s ending, boys tennis strives for success

Junior+George+Smalley+returns+a+volley+in+a+doubles+match+against+St.+Pius+on+Feb.+10.+Boys+tennis+beat+St.+Pius+2-1%2C+while+the+girls+lost+3-0

Cole Parker

Junior George Smalley returns a volley in a doubles match against St. Pius on Feb. 10. Boys’ tennis beat St. Pius 2-1, while the girls lost 3-0

Duncan Tanner, Sports Section Editor

Last season, the boys tennis team was on track to make the playoffs and were ranked first in Region 6-AAAAA after winning a thriller against rival North Springs on Mar. 12. 

However, the season came to an abrupt end the very next day after only five matches and one region match, cutting the road to the playoffs short. 

“The ending to last season, because of Covid, was tough,” head coach Val Taylor said. “It was a Thursday, and we had a match at Grady. We won it with our last doubles in a tremendous win, and the team was looking good. We shook hands, we said ‘Goodbye, well see you Monday,’ and the rest is history.”

The dissatisfaction from the premature end to last season is fueling the team to strive for more this year, explains senior co-captain Colin Stanley.

“I think the abrupt ending made us all a little sad because we love the team, but it’s going to make us play even harder,” Stanley said. “We plan to come back by playing even more and practicing as much as possible.”

This season, the team has already made improvements and is already “much better than last year’s team,” says Taylor. The Knights are currently 4-3 with wins against St. Pius, Lakeside, Decatur, and Paideia, with losses to Westminster, Lovett, and Galloway. 

“This year, since we didn’t lose that much talent from graduating seniors, and we’ve gained talent with new players, we’re much better as a team,” Taylor said. “We’ve got a really good player in sophomore Ethan Bass, who’s ranked 79th in the country, and we’ve got really good doubles; so, we’re solid.”

With new talent and a more experienced team, the Knights have high goals

“I want to make it back to the state finals as we did two seasons ago when we were runner-up in the state,” senior co-captain Henry Edmeades said. “Last season was cut short; so, we didn’t get to see how we did, but this season should be way different.”

But before the Knights can achieve these goals, the team has to overcome some challenges, Taylor said.

“Our main priority is keeping everyone healthy,” Taylor said. “If we lose a doubles team or Bass at one, it’d be tough. You rely on these guys to play hard and win; so, that’s going to be the biggest challenge. If we can stay healthy, I think we really have a solid chance.”

Another aspect the team needs to concentrate on this year is consistency as a team and staying locked-in, says Edmeades.

“The main challenge is just making sure we stay consistent throughout the season,” Edmeades said. “Everyone has bad days and your mentality can easily mess up your game pretty quickly, so just staying sharp and keeping our heads up the whole match is going to help a lot.”

However, with the changing of the Class 5A tennis regions in 2020, the team has some unfamiliar competition in the newly aligned region, which includes North Springs, Maynard Jackson, Lithia Springs, New Manchester, Chapel Hill and Villa Rica.

“As far as our competition goes, a lot is unknown since we’re in a new region,” Taylor said. “We have Chapel Hill and New Manchester, which I don’t know much about in the tennis world, and they might have good teams. We’ll see what North Springs brings to the table, and depending on how that goes, we’ll hopefully be either one or two [in the region], and then we’ll see how we’re seeded.”

With region play starting Mar. 2 against Lithia Springs, Taylor couldn’t be happier with how the team has played thus far. 

“So far, I’m extremely satisfied with how we’ve started the season. I think we’re rockin’ it out,” Taylor said. “The team’s committed, and if you’re committed, you believe in yourself, you believe in the team, and you believe in the cause, then a lot of great things will happen.”

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