Madison County tennis coach Keith Strickland lets his players know they’re not just playing for this year.
There’s a bit of history to defend, too.
After all, these Lady Raiders come from a long lineage of region title winners.
“The girls’ team has a lot to live up to,” coach Keith Strickland said. “Our motto has always been ‘building on tradition.’”
That tradition includes 11 straight trips to the region finals and five region championships.
Madison County — which started play last Tuesday — has also made 11 consecutive appearances in the state tournament, reaching the Sweet 16 the last three years.
Getting over the Sweet 16 hump is this year’s task.
“We would like to improve on our three-straight trips to the Sweet 16 by at least making the Elite 8,” Strickland said.
Molly Smith, Jeannie Bowen, Sarah Powers, Kaitlyn Hale, Alexia Supakorndej and Bailey O’Rourke all return from last year’s region championship squad.
Strickland called these six Lady Raiders “the backbone of the team.”
Smith and Bowen look to continue their dominance of region singles play, while Sarah Powers is the “go-to” player in the doubles ranks, according to Strickland.
The coach said that Hale, Supakorndej and O’Rourke should succeed in whatever roles they fill as well.
A strong freshmen class also bolsters Madison County’s roster.
Strickland called Sam LaZear “an outstanding player and all-around athlete” who could be used at any position. Also, Audra Minish and Adrienne Fitzpatrick should add depth at the doubles positions and newcomer Amie Little has shown improvement, Strickland said.
The region should be “stacked” again, according to Strickland, though it’s been realigned.
The toughest competition should come from Heritage, Habersham, Winder-Barrow and Clarke Central, he said.
Raider netters aim to recapture past glory
The goals for the Madison County’s boys’ tennis team are simple: Win more during the regular season and advance past the region tournament.
“The boys’ goal is to have a winning regular season and to reach the final four in the region tournament in order to make the state tournament,” coach Keith Strickland, whose team started play last Tuesday.
The coach points out that this hasn’t happened since 2006.
That year, the Raiders won their third straight region title and reached the state Sweet 16, but the Raiders have been in rebuilding mode since.
Marcus Bowen, Jeffrey Branson, Jake Scarborough, Chris Dove and Matt Geib make up the core of a team seeking to end that state tournament drought.
Madison County also welcomes a freshmen class that honed its skills in the middle school ranks. Those Raider newcomers include Connor Hancock, Blaise Bolemon and Josh Dooley.
“They will be able to help us win at singles and doubles,” Strickland said.
The coach noted that the teams to beat in the boys’ Region 8-AAAA are Heritage, Habersham and Winder-Barrow.