It has been a year of firsts for the Lowndes High girls tennis team.
The Vikettes claimed their first region championship in school history, and have now advanced to the Final Four of the Class AAAAA state playoffs for the first time in school history.
“It is just remarkable. It’s been an unbelievable season,” said Lowndes head coach Heath Phelps. “Give credit to the girls. They have had an unbelievable work ethic this year. ... They have really come together as team, and it has been a pleasure coaching them.”
Lowndes’ run through the state playoffs comes after a dominating regular season, which saw the team post a 20-3 record, and a perfect 10-0 record in region play, en route to the region title.
“It is a pretty great feeling that we went all the way,” said No. 3 singles player Emily Singletary, who has a 22-1 record this season. “We were all pretty dedicated, so it is a great feeling.”
The play of Singletary, along with the play of No. 1 singles player Taylor Vinge and the No. 1 doubles team of Lori Taylor and Laina Taylor (the daughters of Lowndes principal Wes Taylor) has been phenomenal this season. Vinge is currently 20-3 this season, while the Taylor sisters are 22-1.
“This is my 10th year as head coach at Lowndes, and occasionally I’ll have a singles player with that kind of record, but not three players across the court,” Phelps said. “We don’t really have a lineup where we have a dominating superstar, but every one of them is determined to win. They had a goal set in January, and they took care of it.”
If you ask the players, the hard work in the offseason is the reason for this year’s success, along with what was described as “a family bond” among the team.
“Since we can get along so well, we can get along on the court,” said Vinge. “We can correct each other’s mistakes and that helps us get farther up, compared to other teams who haven’t gone as high up in region because they don’t have that bond.”
In the regular season, Lowndes finished second in the Viking Invitational and the Golden Isles Invitational on Jekyll Island. Their only losses of the season came against Camden County, Etowah and Bleckley County. Besides that, the Vikettes dominated and were able to carry that momentum into the postseason.
In the postseason, Lowndes has yet to face a South Georgia team, and has proven that teams below Macon can indeed play with the likes of the schools from the Atlanta area.
The Vikettes recorded a commanding 5-0 shutout over Newton in the first round, before beating North Cobb 3-1 in the second round.
In the quarterfinals, the Vikettes beat highly-touted Hillgrove 3-2. Prior to that match, Hillgrove had yet to drop a set in the state playoffs, beating both Jenkins and Valdosta 4-0.
“After the Hillgrove win, I was speechless,” Phelps said. “What they have done this season, compared to where they came from, is unbelievable.”
Now Lowndes will likely face its toughest test of the playoffs on Saturday. The team is set to face 20-0 Roswell, which knocked off five-time defending state champion Walton in the quarterfinals.
“If we just go out there and play like we have been playing all year, then I am pretty sure we can go out there and do it,” said senior Bailey Redish. “I mean, we are going to go out there and have fun either way.”
“It is more intense,” said Singletary about playing the Atlanta area schools. “They put a lot of top spin on their balls, but honestly, for me, I like playing tougher competition. I like competitiveness, so I like playing the Atlanta teams, because they are a different style.”
Lowndes is hopeful that an appearance in the Final Four will continue to earn respect for South Georgia tennis teams, after the Valdosta girls appeared in the Final Four last season.
“I would like to get more respect as far as South Georgia tennis,” said Phelps. “I mean, our region is tough, especially on the girls’ side. We had a lot of girls that knew how to play tennis, and that knew how to win.”
“It is just awesome to make it up there, whether we win or lose,” said Redish, who is the only senior on Lowndes’ roster this season, making for a bright future for the girls’ tennis program at Lowndes.
“Next year is going to be great for them,” continued Redish, who plans on attending Valdosta State University as a general student this fall. “It is going to be sad to leave them, but I am going to come back and watch as many matches as I can.”
Vikettes in midst of best season in school history
It has been a year of firsts for the Lowndes High girls tennis team.
- Local Sports
Valdosta State softball’s bid for a national title repeat came up short this season.
The Blazers were eliminated from the NCAA Division II National Championship Tournament Saturday with a 7-5 loss in nine innings to Armstrong Atlantic University, a school based off the Georgia coast in Savannah.
Win or go home
The Valdosta State softball team faces Armstrong Atlantic University in an elimination game for the 2013 Division II Softball Championship Tournament today at noon.
HOOPER: An early look at the 2013 football season
I haven’t written a column in quite some time, largely because there has been so much going on and we haven’t always had the space, nor have I felt up to it after writing so many other stories.
But today, I am writing this column and taking up the inches in the daily sports section and giving a little love to the upcoming football season.
Blazers fall to Molloy in eight innings
With only one out remaining and trailing by three, the Molloy Lions strung together four hits to plate three runs in the seventh followed by another run in the eighth inning to defeat Valdosta State’s softball team 5-4 in the first round of the 2013 Division II Softball National Championship Tournament on Thursday in Salem, Va.
Albritton, Johnson earn All-America honors
Valdosta State softball players Courtney Albritton and Morgan Johnson gathered multiple All-America honors late Wednesday night.
Golfers take course for Wounded Warriors
Local patrons participated in the Wounded Warrior Project Golf Tournament at Stone Creek Golf Club in Valdosta on Thursday.
Valwood football hosting 4-man scramble golf tourney
Head coach Ashley Henderson and the Valwood football team will be hosting a 4-man scramble golf tournament at Valdosta Country Club Friday, June 14.
VHS football cheerleaders to host Junior Cheer Camp
The Valdosta High School football cheerleaders will be hosting a Junior Cheer Camp June 5 through June 7 at the W.G. Nunn Elementary School gymnasium.
Gillespie, McPherson pleased with spring practices
Valdosta’s Rance Gillespie and Lowndes’ Randy McPherson both think their football teams got better during the recent 10 days of spring practice.
Then again, both coaches know their teams have a ways to go before the start of the football season.
Signing day at VHS
It was signing day galore at Valdosta High School Wednesday.
Six student-athletes signed national letter of intents to compete at the next level, while two VHS athletes both signed academic scholarships to Division I universities.
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- VSU eliminated