VALDOSTA -- Valdosta High's girls tennis team is hungry to win a Region 1-AAAAA tennis title.
Particularly the two seniors, Kristen Tullos and Delilah Thomas, who want to claim the second region title of their high school career. They get their chance today at the region tournament, being played at the ABAC tennis courts in Tifton.
"Our two seniors are ready to make it happen again," Valdosta head coach Frank Hjort said. "They were region champions as freshmen, when we were seeded fourth in the region and won it, and now they want to do it again."
Tullos and Thomas have been mainstays for the Lady Wildcats since they were freshmen. Tullos has lost only one match in her high school career, is the Lady 'Cats No. 1 singles player, and is ranked among the top 10 players in the state. Thomas plays on Valdosta's top doubles team with junior Lauren Bahnsen, a team that has lost just once all year. Hjort moved Thomas to doubles to strengthen that team.
"Delilah's loved it there, and I think it fits her game better there anyway. She and Lauren have played well together," Hjort said. "Kristen has had a great career, and she is playing well right now. They're great girls, on and off the tennis court."
Valdosta's other singles players are sophomore Priscilla Thomas at No. 2 singles and freshman Jessica Sharp at No. 3. In doubles, juniors Jordan Thomas and Carly Davis are the No. 2 team.
"I think our chances are good to win this tournament, if we play well. The girls are ready to finish it off," Hjort said.
Valdosta tied for the region championship with Colquitt County, but is seeded No. 2 in the tournament. They have a bye to the second round, which guarantees they'll make the state tournament. They will likely face Lowndes in the semifinals, and the winner of that match will probably face Colquitt for the region title.
Valdosta's boys are also seeded second, but have a bye all the way to the finals. Because Lowndes' boys went undefeated in the region this year, they have automatically received the top seed for the state playoffs, and won't compete in the tournament. That makes it a five-team tournament. The way the bracket is drawn up, No. 3 Colquitt, No. 4 Tift, No. 5 Coffee and No. 6 Houston will battle two rounds, with the winner facing Valdosta in the finals.
"That means we're going to state, and I'm excited about that," Valdosta boys coach Nancy Hjort (Frank's wife) said. "I'm just so proud of these kids. They're a scrappy team, and to get the second seed at state would be great for them."
Greg Tullos, Kristen's brother, will play No. 1 singles, and their brother Dylan plays No. 3 singles. Parker Childree is the No. 2 singles player. Paul Gill and Michael Collier are the No. 1 doubles team, while Ming Lin and Mudit Chowdhary play No. 2.
"They're ready for this, and excited about it," Nancy Hjort said.
Lowndes tennis coach Heath Phelps has felt his girls have been narrowing the gap between themselves and region leaders Valdosta and Colquitt all year. The Vikettes came two points from upsetting VHS just over a week ago.
Now the Vikettes will have a shot at upsetting one or both, provided they win their first-round match with winless Houston County. They would face Valdosta in the semifinals.
Lacey Hansen will play No. 1 singles for LHS. Tayler Jarvis has been almost unbeatable at No. 2 singles, winning all of her region matches. Alison Keener will play No. 3 singles. In doubles, Leah Taylor and Savannah Roberts play No. 1, while Jamie Futch and Lauren Godwin are at No. 2 doubles.
The Region 1-AA girls tennis tournament takes place today in Nashville.
Host Berrien, the top seed, and second seed Cook have byes to the semifinals. Berrien plays the Brooks County- Early County winner, while Cook gets the Thomasville-Albany winner, at around 11 a.m. The finals will begin at 3:30 p.m.
Berrien (13-1) is undefeated in region play and ranked No. 3 in the gasports.com poll, with its only loss to No. 6 Valdosta. The Lady Rebels lost in the region championship last year to Irwin County, but had won five in a row before that.
"It's a new region, but we're hoping for six out of seven," Berrien coach Jarrett Luke said. "We're looking forward to hosting, and it should be good competition."
The 1-AA boys tournament is Monday in Thomasville.