Madison County tennis teams are aiming for that familiar feeling — the region trophy in their hands.
And the battle is on the horizon.
The Region 8-AAAA tournament is set for April 16-17 at Madison County High School and Madison County Middle School.
The Raider guys, who won the region last year on their way to a Class AAAA runner-up finish, are once again sporting a stellar record. The team is 15-3 and 10-0 in region play. Meanwhile, the girls are 8-9 and 5-4 in region play. The girls will have one final tuneup before the region tournament, hosting Clarke Central at 4 p.m., Tuesday, April 8.
Both teams are enjoying some off time during spring break, following a busy time on the courts last week.
Madison County head coach Keith Strickland said his teams faced three opponents last Tuesday — the wind, the cold and Lanier.
“We knew going in that Lanier would be some good competition for us as we prepare for the region tournament,” said the coach. “Their girls are tough and have a lot of tournament experience.”
Strickland said Maranda Dove played “extremely good tennis against last year’s region co-player of the year.”
“She (Dove) won the first set and forced her opponent to her first ever three-set match in region play over the last two years,” said Strickland. “Morgan Dooley also had a great match against a very talented opponent.”
The coach said the Raider guys came on the court focused, “but the wind and cold definitely affected their play.”
He said number one singles player Ben Strickland played the best match of the day.
“He came out more focused than I’ve seen all season,” said Strickland. “He played an opponent ranked in the top 30 in Georgia. He lost recently to this player at the Lagrange tournament, but the match play was different there — it was no ad scoring and a third set tie-breaker. Ben was focused and played his smartest match this season. He took the first set 6-4, played a great second and third but lost very close sets. His opponent had not lost a set and very few games to all other region opponents this season. I’m extremely proud of the way he managed the match. All of the other boys played good tennis and kept their ‘cool’ when dealing with the wind.”
Madison County’s guys and girls dropped matches to Oconee County last Wednesday, March 26, with the guys falling 2-3 and the girls losing 1-4.
“The boys had a very competitive match,” said Strickland. “The level of competition was where we needed it to be to help prepare us for the upcoming region tournament and post season.”
Tyler Terrell and Hank Sartain played well and earned wins at number two and number three singles to give the Raiders the chance to pull off the team win.
“At number one doubles, Adam and Ben Sartain played one of the best doubles teams in our area, coming up short,” said Strickland. “They needed to play the big points a little smarter. As a team, our boys need to improve on knowing exactly where they are in a game and playing the appropriate shot to stay in it.”
The coach said the girls had some “very good match play.”
“Abby Thrasher played well and took her match to a third set, losing a tight one 4-6,” said Strickland. “Melody Montgomery and Josie McKenzie were more focused and took their match in straight sets for a change.”
Both varsity teams bounced back the next day, topping Stephens County. The guys won 4-1, while the girls blanked the Lady Indians 5-0.
“Our boys came out determined to wrap up the sub-region schedule undefeated and claim the number-one north seed in the upcoming region tournament,” said Strickland. “We had great play at all lines. Every position improved from the last time we played them at home. The boys should be able to take this momentum and apply it to the post season. Every line knows that the key for us is depth of line-up and taking care of business on your court.”
The girls grabbed their first 5-0 win of the season and claimed the number-two north seed in the region tournament.
“All five lines went on the court focused and wasted no time in winning in straight sets,” said the coach. “Again, I look for the girls to take this game plan and apply at the region tournament.”