Valdosta Daily Times

Local Sports

December 31, 2006

Wins, losses in Winnersville in ’06

VSU tennis, Thomas’ retirement, VHS-LHS missing playoffs head local sports news from 2006

VALDOSTA — Valdosta, Georgia remained Winnersville in 2006.

Even though three of the city’s most successful teams — the football teams from Valdosta State, Lowndes High and Valdosta High — missed the playoffs, other programs built on the town’s legacy of winning.

Valdosta State won a national championship in tennis. Valwood and Clinch County both played for a state championship in football. Open Bible won its second straight girls basketball state championship.

Choosing the top 10 local sports stories of the year was somewhat difficult, but the sports department of The Valdosta Daily Times decided these were the area’s 10 biggest stories in 2006.

1. VSU tennis team wins first national championship

John Hansen had been Valdosta State’s tennis coach for 33 years, and had built the Blazer tennis program into one of Division II’s elite teams. But until 2006, one thing had always eluded him: a national championship.

In 2006, Hansen and the Blazers got that national title.

The Blazers started the season 18-0, with several of those wins coming against teams ranked in Division II’s Top 10. That included a victory over two-time defending national champion West Florida.

At the national tournament in Kansas City, Valdosta State beat No. 1 Drury in the second round, then went on to make it into the finals.

In the finals, on May 13, Valdosta State beat Lynn 5-2 to win the national championship. The Blazers, as they had done in three previous matches at the tournament, won two of three doubles matches. Then they picked up wins at Nos. 2, 4 and 6 singles to wrap up the university’s third national crown, and its first in tennis.

“It’s been a great day,” Hansen said afterwards. “I’m so proud of these guys, and happy for all of them. This is a special group of guys. It feels great to win the national championship.”

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