published Tuesday, February 12th, 2013

Georgia high school tennis season officially starts despite chill

Monday was the first day that Georgia high schools could play tennis matches this year.

There are new schools in new regions and public schools splitting apart from private schools, but right now the talk in northwest Georgia is the weather and the ability -- or inability -- to stay warm. Most teams won't start play for at least two more weeks.

"At this time of year, it feels more like a scrimmage than an actual match here," LaFayette coach Clint Harrison said.

There are a couple of primary reasons for the early allowed start. South Georgia has high temperatures normally in the 60s and 70s in February, when the weather in the northern part of the state is unpredictable and often dreary.

Another reason for the early start date is so seasons can be completed to accommodate spring football practice.

"This is not conducive to tennis weather," Dalton coach David Hilley said. "At times you get frustrated with it, but it is what it is."

Hilley's daughter Madison plays for a Gordon Lee team that stands to gain a lot from the reclassification that split private and public Class A schools for postseason purposes. The past three seasons the Lady Trojans have won 35 matches and two of their 10 defeats were to private schools Fellowship Christian and Providence Christian, while a third was to Wesleyan, a private school that now competes in AA.

"It is going to be a little easier for us, but I've lost so many players from the past few years," Gordon Lee coach David Eason said. "We won't be able to get started for a while because I expect our girls' basketball team to make a deep run for a state title."

The reclassification also adds Northwest Whitfield to a region that includes nearby rivals Dalton and Southeast Whitfield. Two of the region's top teams, Allatoona and Cartersville, have moved -- Allatoona now in 7-AAAAA and Cartersville moving down to 5-AAA, in the opposite subregion from Coahulla Creek, Lakeview-Fort Oglethorpe, North Murray and Ringgold.

Murray County now is in 7-AA with Dade County and Calhoun.

Region 7-AAAA adds Cass and River Ridge, the latter of which could be an immediate force considering its proximity to Atlanta.

"It's going to make it a whole lot more competitive," Harrison said. "You felt like you were playing for third because Allatoona and Cartersville were so strong, so finishing third to them you would feel good about it.

"I think it'll be a little more wide open. Last year we'd go into spring break fighting for the third slot, but I think it will be more interesting later in the season, and there will be a lot more energy heading into the region tournament."

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