It’s perhaps a high school version of the “Grand Slam” — winning a region title for four straight years.
The 18-3 (13-0) Madison County boys’ tennis team did just that this past weekend, capturing the Region 8-AAAA tournament 3-0 to capture the crown for the fourth-straight year.
“The boys first big goal of this season was to win the region championship and make it four in a row,” said Raider head coach Keith Strickland. “This was a very special moment in MCHS tennis history and MCHS sports as a whole. It was also special to me personally as I got to share the moment with my son, Ben, who has started all four years at varsity and played in every region final. This has been an extraordinary experience for our team and I have been blessed to work with these young men.”
Strickland said the team knew they had defeated Lanier twice already this season.
“But we understood that all teams have improved over the course of the season and that we could not take any line for granted,” he said. “I knew that all three singles lines would be a battle as they had been in our previous meetings. I felt like we had the better doubles teams and would take those positions.”
Strickland said Adam and Ben Sartain at number one doubles played “their most aggressive and driven tennis of the tournament if not the season so far.”
“They made incredible shots from all positions on the court,” said Strickland. “At 2D, Koti (Nguyen) and Hayden (Colquitt), playing in their first region championship as a team, started a little tentatively in the first set but rebounded to take it in straights.”
Strickland said Hank Sartain “hit the cleanest ball I’ve seen so far this season.”
“He took it to his opponent, giving him no room to gain momentum or come back in either set,” said the coach. “Tyler Terrell came out on fire the first set before losing the second. His match was suspended when we took three lines.”
Strickland said his team opened the region tournament with a powerful effort.
“In the quarters against Monroe and the semis against Chestatee, Ben Strickland (1S), Hanks Sartain (3S), and Adam/Ben Sartain (1D) entered the court with determination,” said the coach. “All three lines blasted their way to wins, giving us the 3-0 win to move to the next round. We did play the matches out against Monroe and won 5-0 and Tyler finished his match against Chestatee to give us the 4-0 win.”
Meanwhile, the Lady Raiders (11-10, 7-5) took third in the Region 8-AAAA tournament, advancing to the state tournament for the 17th-straight year.
“On the girls’ side, we played Walnut Grove in the quarters, a team we had not faced this season,” said Strickland. “Our girls went out focused and determined to win the match and make sure our program would make its 17th consecutive appearance in the state tournament. Before the match, I reminded the girls of the winning tradition and of the players who came before them and made it happen.”
All three singles lines tore through straight set matches to give Madison County a 3-0 win.
“I was very pleased with their effort on the court,” said the coach. “We played the dubs out and Anna Crouse/Kassey Conner played a good match taking their match in straight sets as well to give us the 4-1 win.”
Strickland said his team knew they’d have to play their best to beat Lanier in the semifinals.
“We came up short, but played well,” he said.
The Lady Raiders then faced Chestatee in the consolation finals, a team that downed Madison County twice 2-3 in the regular season.
“Our girls were determined and a lot more seasoned than when we last met,” said Strickland. “Our goal was to take it to them and get the 3-0 win to send us back to state. The singles did it for us again. All three played some of their best tennis this season, losing just five games total in all three matches. I am very proud of the seniors (Morgan Dooley and Abby Thrasher) for stepping it up a notch and leading the team to the win. Maranda Dove continued to play great tennis.”