Valdosta Daily Times

March 24, 2013

LHS tennis excelling in 2013

The Valdosta Daily Times

VALDOSTA — So far, so good for the Lowndes tennis teams this season. With the regular season quickly coming to an end, the Vikings and Vikettes have a combined 23-3 record and each sit atop the sub-region standings.

“We are over half way through the season, it is a great feeling,” Lowndes head coach Heath Phelps said. “The guys and girls have worked hard this season....We just can’t get complacent. We have a huge match against Colquitt on Tuesday, at home.”

Through their first 13 matches this season, the Vikings are 12-1, while the Vikettes, who lost just one member from last year’s Final Four team, sit with an 11-2 record.

With impressive performances so far, the expectations are abound for the South Georgia powers.

Both teams are already favorites to win next month’s region tournament championship at McKey Park, and some believe the teams have strong chances at winning state championships in May.

“I’ve been asked that a lot,” Phelps said, about his teams’ chances of winning the state championships this season. “Right now, I think, based off what we’ve seen, the boys having been to the Final Four three times and girls once, that is a different upper-echelon of talent up there. We can compete against them, yes, but we haven’t. In the past, we haven’t had a match that we’ve been able to compete with those teams in the Final Four. Are we catching up? Yes, I think so. But those teams up there in Atlanta are real good.”

This year’s success might be attributed to the foundation that was laid last year, when the Vikettes finished with a 20-4 overall record (10-0 in region) and advanced all the way to the state semifinals, losing to eventual state champion Roswell, 3-0.

The boys finished 2012 with a 16-5 record, falling to Hillgrove in the second round.

“The girls, it is the same team we had last year, with the exception of one senior,” Phelps said. “The guys, we lost three seniors and we have a lot of youth on their side. Everyone will be back next year.”

It was those performances, and experienced gained, last year that Phelps believes prepared his team to make long runs in the state tournament this season.

“I think so, it carried over,” Phelps said. “We have new faces in the lineup, on the guys side, but the guys that are starting on varsity as freshmen, they won region in middle school. They know what the expectations are. We are enjoying the success. Kids are working hard.”

Since the start to the state tournament is still over a month away, the Vikings and Vikettes are focusing on the task     at-hand right now: Continue to win one match at a time.

“If they can stay goal oriented, it is a long season,” Phelps said. “You have to take it day-by-day. You can’t start looking ahead. Like Brunswick on Friday; we weren’t looking ahead to Colquitt until it was over.”

Besides three combined losses this season — two against state-power Norcross — Lowndes tennis has dominated its competition this season, including Friday night when the teams each recorded 5-0 victories over Brunswick.

Through 65 sets played this year, each team has won 54, and that includes a 3-2 loss to Norcross for the girls and a 4-1 loss for the boys.

Against opponents from South Georgia, the records are even more impressive.

The Vikettes are 52-8 in sets against teams that are from the southern part of the state, while the Vikings are 53-7 against those same teams.

“This year, and the past few years, our region has been the most competitive it has ever been,” Phelps said. “In Valdosta, especially, there are more junior tennis players coming out. McKey Park is getting a lot of kids to come out and play. But our region as a whole, there is not a weak team. It is a competitive Region 1 right now. You have to earn every win.”

In region play, the Vikings hold a 5-0 record and have lost a total of just four sets. The Vikettes are 4-1 and have lost a total of just five sets, thus being a major reason why each team can win the outright sub-region championship with wins over Colquitt County Tuesday night.

If victorious, the boys will secure the No. 1 seed for the region tournament, set for April 18, while the girls will secure the No. 2 seed, with Camden County earning the No. 1 seed.

“Right now, I’m just proud of the kids,” Phelps said. “They are working hard. If they can stay focused, we will have a positive finish to the season.”

Following Tuesday’s matches, set to begin at 4 p.m., Lowndes will participate in the Golden Isles Invitational in Jekyll Island next weekend.