By Anthony Gagliano

In his team's first time at the state tennis semifinals, Lowndes coach Heath Phelps was going to make sure his team soaked up the atmosphere.

"At one point, I told Matt Odom, 'Look around. Do you realize you're where no other Lowndes team and no other Region 1-AAAAA has been? This is an Olympic venue. This is the Final Four. Live it up."

In addition to the tremendous facilities at the Stone Mountain Tennis Center, the Vikings also got an up-close look at some top-notch tennis. Lowndes' unbeaten season ended Friday on a 4-0 defeat to Lassiter in the semifinals.

"I was talking to their coach I asked him what they do, and he said everyday after school they attend a tennis academy with a full pro," Phelps said. "And (No. 1 singles) Ryan Smith goes four days a week for a four-hour lesson with one of the top pros.

"I told the guys we just got beat by the state champion and there's nothing to be ashamed about."

Smith, a Junior Davis Cup team member and the state's top 16-year-old, managed to do something no one else in Georgia could. The left-hander, ranked No. 5 in the nation at his age, defeated Lowndes' Mikey Millner 6-2, 6-0, handing him first defeat in two years.

The Trojans (21-4) also picked up a 6-2, 6-0 win at No. 2 singles as senior Shawn Gordon, on his way to Auburn-Montgomery on a scholarship, beat Matt Odom. The Vikings' top doubles team of Andrew Smith and Dane Boruff won their first set but the match was called in the second when Lassiter completed its win.

Lassiter last won a state title in 1999 and the younger brothers of three players from that team are on this year's squad.

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