Madison County won’t enter the state tournament as a no. 1 seed, but has its sights set on prosperity nonetheless.
The no. 2 seed Lady Raiders (14-3, 12-1) will host no. 3 seed Sequoyah out of Region 7-AAAA today at 4 p.m. as Madison County looks to get back to the Sweet 16.
This is the 12th-straight trip to the state tournament for the program.
“I look for the girls to be fired up and ready to win this thing and move on to the 16s,” coach Keith Strickland said.
Madison County finished as 8-AAAA runners-up, losing in the region finals 3-2 to Heritage Friday.
The Lady Raiders fell in both doubles matches and at no. 3 singles as the team fell just short of a region championship.
“In the finals, both of our doubles teams played a little tight and looked like they just ran out of gas as we played two matches back-to-back on Friday night,” Strickland said.
Still, the region tournament yielded its share of Lady Raider highlights.
Both no. 1 and no. 2 singles players Molly Smith and Jeannie Bowen went 3-0 during region, winning every match in straight sets.
The no. 1 doubles duo of Sarah Powers and Sam LaZear, — LaZear was nursing a very sore shoulder — “both played extremely well in all their matches,” Strickland said, winning the first two in straight sets.
Powers and LaZear played a suspenseful first set in the finals, winning on a tie-breaker, 7-2. However, the tandem lost the second and third sets.
Entering the finals, the Lady Raiders hadn’t surrendered a point in its first two matches in the 8-AAAA tournament.
Madison County opened with a 3-0 victory over Rockdale County Thursday and followed with a 3-0 win over Winder-Barrow Friday in the semifinals.
Strickland was confident that his team would take care of business against the Lady Bulldogs.
“With the beginning court assignments being no. 1 singles, no. 2 singles and no. 1 doubles, we felt confident that we could take Winder in three (sets) as we had beaten them at these positions in straight sets each match this year,” Strickland said.
Raider netters return to state
Though a low seed, the Madison County boys’ tennis program returned to familiar territory.
The Raider netters (10-7, 9-4) ended a two-year drought in the Class AAAA state tournament with a fourth-place finish in the region tournament.
Madison County, a no. 4 seed, faced no. 1 seed Hillgrove out of Region 7-AAAA Wednesday in the first round of the state tournament, but results weren’t available at press time.
Madison County earned the spot by beating Cedar Shoals 3-2 last Thursday at the 8-AAAA tournament.
With the match tied 2-2, Blaise Boleman stepped up with a 6-2, 6-3 victory to clinch the Raiders’ spot at state.
Madison County claimed its other victories at both doubles positions, with Jake Scarborough and Chris Dove winning 6-1, 6-3, and Connor Hancock and Josh Dooley winning 7-5, 6-0.
“Both doubles teams played very well and took care of business in straight sets,” coach Keith Strickland said.
However, the team was relegated to a fourth seed after falling to Loganville 3-1 in the semifinals and 3-1 to Winder-Barrow in the consolation finals.
Madison County dropped a tough match at no. 1 doubles in the semifinals loss to Loganville.
“In the semis, we knew we had a very good chance at winning 3-2 but fell a little short as the no. 1 doubles team started a little slow and could not capitalize at key moments,” Strickland said.
Madison County then lost tight matches at the top two singles spots and both doubles positions against Winder-Barrow.
On a brighter note, Strickland said that no. 2 doubles team of Connor Hancock and Josh Dooley “had the tournament of their lives,” going 3-0.
“They kept their cool under pressure and played the big points well,” he said.