GIRLS' TEAMS TO WATCH
Baylor: The Lady Red Raiders won the Division II-AA state championship last season. They lost individual singles champion Sanya Brkovic but gained transfer Mary Walker Mixon from St. Pius X in Atlanta.
GPS: The Bruisers finished second in the Division II-AA state tournament a season ago. They lost two of their top six but return a lot of depth.
Notre Dame: The Lady Irish could make a Class A/AA run after returning virtually all of their lineup, including Callie Voges and Katie Joyce.
BOYS' TEAMS TO WATCH
Baylor: After two consecutive Division II-AA state runner-up finishes, the Red Raiders will be looking to take the next step to a championship, led by Anderson Scarpa.
Dalton: The Catamounts lost only one of their top three singles players from a Georgia Class AAA second-round playoff team; they return top player Hunter Carson.
McCallie: The Blue Tornado lost two members from a Division II-AA state semifinalist but return a lot of depth, led by individual singles runner-up Bobby Brouner.
GIRLS' PLAYERS TO WATCH
Samantha Caswell, Baylor: Caswell was a semifinalist in the Division II-AA state singles tournament last season and will be among the favorites to win it all this year.
Taylor Johnson, East Hamilton: Johnson was selected as a Best of Preps player after finishing 13-2 last season for the Lady Hurricanes.
Sadie Shackelford, St. Andrew's-Sewanee: Shackelford, who's headed to MiddleburyCollege, hopes to earn her third Division II-A state singles title.
BOYS' PLAYERS TO WATCH
Bobby Brouner, McCallie: Brouner was the Division II-AA state runner-up last season.
Jackson Lenoir, Arts & Sciences: Lenoir finished second in the Class A/AA state tournament a year ago.
Anderson Scarpa, Baylor: Scarpa was a Division II-AA state quarterfinalist in 2011.
John Mitchell and Autumn Baker know all too well the challenges and perceptions for tennis players at area public schools. For the most part, anybody not at a private school is looked at as an inferior player.
Their mission is to try and change that -- not just for them, but for their school, Central.
Mitchell and Baker both were District 6-A/AA singles runners-up a year ago, and Mitchell became a region finalist.
"I'm disappointed that we don't get the recognition that other schools get," he said. "People at our school don't even know that we have a tennis team. We want to get the program recognized, so now, when I play in summer tournaments, I wear my Central tennis gear."
Purple Pounders coach Jack Mitchell, John's father, said the biggest difference between public and private school tennis players is not during the season but in the schools' offseason.
"Your private schools get the opportunity to practice all year long," he said. "Schools like a Baylor, McCallie or GPS are like colleges. It's almost intimidating when you look at their facilities, but I tell my kids that you have to put the effort into it to be better -- your vision has to be higher.
"Ninety percent of my kids don't pick up a racket until March."
Coach Mitchell once ran a tennis program in the Highland Park area, and he recalled young John running around while members learned and played the game, sometimes while wearing ankle bracelets. The coach's latest project has been trying to establish a program at Central. He does have a solid foundation now.
"I put John and Autumn in the clinics at McCallie. John has worked his way up to No. 2 in the Baylor and Manker Patten tournaments," Coach Mitchell said. "People would ask me what school John went to, and it's funny to see their faces when I tell them Central."
The Pounders program doesn't have to look far when trying to find the manuscript of how to win. The Arts & Sciences boys advanced to their first state tournament last season and could make a run again this season.
"CSAS gives public schools hope," the younger Mitchell said. "It shows that we're a force to be reckoned with, but here at Central we're going to have to work hard. We have to put in the work, and that's what I stress to my friends here.
"I want to get Central on the map, so we have to give it all while we're here."
Baker said the challenge is for players like her and Mitchell to lead by example.
"I do a lot of instructing," she said. "If someone is doing wrong, I correct them and try to give as many helpful pointers as possible. If you practice something all year long, you're going to be good at it; sometimes we're at a disadvantage because we don't.
"I hold myself to a higher standard, and if I am, my teammates should, too. It depends on how hard we practice here. We'd love to be a part of a district championship. It would mean a lot more to me if we won together because we would have won as a team, and I'm all about teamwork."