Due to weather conditions and the cancellation of activities and classes, most teams took a while to decide their lineups, but they’ve been able to practice after temperatures warmed up.
At the top of the talent in Cherokee County is River Ridge, which will be looking to win the Region 7AAAA title for the third consecutive year. It will be the last year for the Knights competing in the region before moving up a classification next year.
Coach Lynn Freeman is returning five of her seven starters from 2013, when she saw the Knights advance to the quarterfinals, and Freeman expects the team to once again contend for a state championship. In her singles line will be Ben Van Hout at No. 1 and Clay McIntyre at No. 2.
McIntyre will also pair up on occasion at No. 1 doubles with fellow senior Jake Hicks, who is weighing several options to play at the collegiate level.
Much like River Ridge, Woodstock and coach Josh Smerker will look to improve on last season’s Class AAAAAA quarterfinal appearance, in which the Wolverines went 12-8-1 overall and finished third in Region 5AAAAAA.
Senior Ivan Vizcaya, freshman Jackson Wood and sophomore Evan Zaner will be the singles players for the Wolverines. Meanwhile, juniors Luke Mixon and Spencer Hren will be at No. 1 doubles, and junior Jacob Bertram and senior Hunter Scott will be at No. 2.
Smerker said the team is trying to grab the first or second seed coming out of the region, so it can host a home playoff match.
“We have a great group of kids that happen to be good tennis players,” Smerker said. “Our players expect to do well and make the playoffs, as opposed to hoping they make the playoffs.”
Etowah will have a new head coach this season. Boys basketball coach Don Hurlburt is still learning the ropes as the tennis coach, but he is excited about the returning players and the upcoming season.
Etowah has a veteran-laden team, and it top seven or eight players have plenty of experience from the group that went 11-8 a season ago. Seniors Kevin Mendes and Taylor Barie will be the No. 1 and 2 singles players for the Eagles, and junior Jake Pollack will be the third.
Mendes has already signed to play tennis next year at Carson-Newman University in Jefferson City, Tenn.
Hurlburt believes his team will be very competitive, and they have already established a couple of goals for themselves.
“First, we want to be the very best tennis team in Cherokee County,” Hurlburt said. “Secondly, we want to compete for the Region 5AAAAAA boys tennis championship and return to the state playoffs. We believe that we have the talent, and if the boys continue to work, we think we have an excellent chance of reaching our goals.”
Unlike some of the other schools that have a history of making the state playoffs, Sequoyah coach Angel Chambers will try to turn her team around.
In 2013, the Chiefs won only two matches.
Cole Cates will be Sequoyah’s No. 1 singles player this season. He is looking at several colleges to play for, including Oglethorpe and the University of the South.
Mason Pomrenke and Blake Van Atta will be the No. 2 and No. 3 single players, while Nicolas Fricia and Reece Montooth will be the No. 1 doubles, followed by Jake Jensen and Camden Rodgers at the 2 spot.
Van Atta and Fricia are both freshmen and Chambers believes that Sequoyah, because it has added stronger talent, will be more competitive this year.
Also in Class AAAAA, Creekview much like Sequoyah will try to improve on last year’s 5-11 record and fifth-place subregion finish.
Creekview’s singles lineup will feature senior Eric Daniel, followed by sophomores Lawson Stansell and Michael Stapor.
Coach Randy Clemons believes he has many players who are capable of playing doubles for the Grizzlies. Despite losing Tommy Aiken, who now at Berry, Clemons expects his young players to step in and work hard and fill that void.
“We are working on building our program toward being a consistent winner and competing in our region,” Clemons said. “I think that we will continue to see the program improve over this season and the ones to come.”
Cherokee coach Dennis Jolley will have a young team this season, with only two seniors on the roster.
The Warriors finished a disappointing 2-10 last year, and Jolley believes it will be an interesting season in Region 5AAAAAA, with his goal to groom the younger players.
Junior Cameron Revenue will be the Warriors’ No. 1 singles player due to his ability and leadership skills. Chance Garden is the only senior on the team with experience and will also be instrumental for Cherokee this year.
Walker Benson has potential and will be the No. 2 singles player. Benson is just getting back into tennis after taking some time off.
Jolley hopes for a great season, but he believes that it’s important that his young team grows and enjoys itself this year.