published Friday, March 28th, 2014

Calhoun's Kessler commits to Florida

McClain Kessler likes new opportunities. One arose for him to play high school tennis, and he's pounced on that and helped Calhoun to an undefeated record so far.

The opportunity to play for his dream college came up, and he's pounced on that as well.

The Calhoun junior has committed to continue his tennis career at Florida. He has gone to the Stephen Diaz Tennis Academy and is currently ranked as the No. 15 junior in the nation. He is also sixth in the Southeast and second in the state of Georgia, according to TennisRecruiting.net.

This is his first season playing tennis at the school, but he has played in tournaments all across the country while being home-schooled as a part of the Calhoun Online Learning Academy. The chance to participate with his friends was too good to pass up.

"The season has gone well," Kessler said Thursday. "It's been a kind of different step, but I want to help my friends get a state-championship ring."

Kessler also received interest from Georgia, Georgia Tech and Alabama but admitted that going to Florida was his "dream choice."

"Coach Bryan Shelton was amazing, and the staff and the team were awesome," Kessler said. "I felt like it was the best school to try and win a national championship."

Calhoun co-head coach Robin Proffitt loves the fact that the COLA program has given athletes a chance to play high school sports, adding that freshman Jake Briggs ispart of the same program.

"I'm just glad I don't have to go walking the hallways trying to get football and basketball players to play," Proffitt said with a laugh. "We have a team of tennis players that are at the court all year round, and they're real excited about the sport."

Good Brainerd start

Alphonso Canty knew there could be struggles in restarting the tennis program at Brained High School, which hadn't had a team in years, so he enlisted the help of two players he knew could help: his daughters.

Twins Britteny and Brianna Canty, who are sophomores, transferred to Brainerd from Hiram (Ga.) before this season. Coach Canty has been at Brainerd for five years now and took over the program when principal Uras Agee announced he was bringing back the country-club sport this season.

Both sisters are 4-0 early in the season, and the team is 3-1. The boys' team, led by Bernard King -- a student at the Center for Performing Arts -- also has a 3-1 mark.

"We have a lot that have never played before, but I love how the players have competed -- win or lose," Coach Canty said. "Good athletes don't mean good tennis players, but I like the fact that these student-athletes are good kids that are learning and doing well."

He brought his daughters to Brainerd so that they and the program could "develop together."

"The coach at Hiram really couldn't teach strategy," Coach Canty said. "They've been able to assist the program in developing, but everybody has been doing good so far."

Tennis tournaments

The Baylor boys' tennis team will head to Louisville this weekend to participate in the Decoturf National Championships.

The Red Raiders (3-0) drew Rockhurst, Mo., in the first round of the 16-team tournament, having lost only three games in the three matches they've played so far. Baylor finished 10th a season ago in the tournament with a 2-2 record.

After dropping the first two matches in the Decoturf last season, McCallie won its final two and finished 13th. The Blue Tornado will be playing in the Buckhead Rotary Tournament this weekend at Westminster.

Soccer rankings

Under new head coach David Stanton, the Chattanooga Christian soccer team has jumped out to a 3-1-2 start this season. The Chargers are ranked third in the latest Class A/AA state poll, formulated by EurosportScoreboard.com.

Stanton was the head coach at CCS from 1973 to 2004 before becoming an assistant to Shawn Brower, who took a job at Jupiter Christian School in West Palm Beach, Fla., after last season. Stanton brought the program its first state championship in 2001.

The Chargers are one of 10 area programs ranked in the latest polls. Notre Dame (2-3-1) is seventh in A/AA, while Baylor (6-1) is fourth in Division II-AA.

In Georgia, Dalton's boys (10-0-1) are second in Class AAAA, while Southeast Whitfield is fourth. The neighbors tangled in the state final last season, with the Catamounts winning 5-0 for their second state championship.

Calhoun (11-0-1) is third in Class AA, a spot ahead of Murray County (8-2). North Murray (8-2) is eighth in AAA.

Calhoun's girls (10-0) are fourth in AA, and the Heritage girls (7-2-1) are seventh in AAAA.

Contact Gene Henley at ghenley@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6311. Follow him at twitter.com/genehenleytfp.

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